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Our e-waste problem

With Adekunle Adekoya

There are so many aspects of life in Nigeria where problems exist. If it is not in education, it must be in healthcare, or the environment, or simply trying to move from one place to another.

For instance, those who use the Lagos-Ibadan roadway (can we still call it an expressway?) regularly now expect one problem or the other which might lengthen the time they needed to spend on that road. But this discourse is not about roads; it is about our growing e-waste problem.

First, there is a need to understand what e-waste really is, in a country whose citizens are racing far ahead of those in charge of governance; that is, there are facilities and gadgets in use in this country for which there are no laws regulating their use and disposal. One example is the internet, while another has to do with unserviceable or obsolete electronic gadgets.

The online resource, Wikipedia, defines e-waste as “all secondary computers, entertainment device electronics, mobile phones, and other items such as television sets and refrigerators, whether sold, donated, or discarded by their original owners. ”

From another perspective, e-waste describes obsolete, discarded, unserviceable or broken electrical and electronic devices. Our country has simply become a dumping ground for everything dangerous to life in other places. Daily, trucks carrying containers filled with what we have described above, but which the trader class insist is used but serviceable electronics leave our ports for various markets. Many of these items are used DVD players, CD players, TV sets, home theatre sets, not to talk of used phones and even used handset batteries!

Now, many of the TV sets may be “okay” before they were taken away from Europe or wherever, but might have suffered damage of one kind or the other in transit by the time they get here.

One is alarmed at the growing ubiquity of CRTs in gutters and garbage dumps. For those who do not know, the CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) is a tube containing an electron gun and a fluorescent screen, with means to accelerate and deflect the electron beam, used to create images in the form of light emitted from the fluorescent screen. Put simply, when you watch TV, you are actually watching the CRT in action, encased in black or silver colour aluminum and plastic casing. CRTs contain elements such as lead, cadmium, beryllium, mercury, and brominated flame retardants.

The problem here is that the elements mentioned above, toxic as they are, are being introduced into the environment carelessly; they go into the soil, contaminate soil water, which the plants use, which we also use! They are in the air which we all breathe! As these elements permeate the environment — the air we breathe and the soil and water, they will wreak havoc in our system, leading to structural changes in genetic make-up. Biologists call that mutation. In other words, if we do not control e-waste today, in about 50 or 100 years, or less (I can’t really say but I’m sure it will happen), mutant genes will ensure that people who have been over-exposed to these and other toxic elements might be having three eyes, four ears, and perhaps, horns on two heads, with 12 fingers on arms that touch the ground.

Europe and other continents are cleaning their environments at our expense; while the poverty situation in which we are locked blinds us to the clear and present danger facing us and unborn generations. The time to act is now.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.