November 10, 2022

Electronic waste endangers health of mothers, children – WHO

Electronic waste endangers health of mothers, children – WHO

…as stakeholders decry increasing e-waste in Nigeria, want govt’s intervention

By Gabriel Ewepu, Abuja

AS Climate Change compounds health, agricultural, environmental and economic challenges across the world, the World Health Organisation, WHO, Thursday, said electronic waste endangers health of mothers and children in Nigeria.

This was made known by the National Consultant, Public Health and Environment, WHO Nigeria, Dr Edwin Isotu-Edeh, during a webinar on Electronic Waste and Public Health in Nigeria, with theme, `Health Impacts of Electronic Waste in Nigeria: Are you a Victim or Perpetrator?’ organised by the Federal of Health in partnership with Federal Ministry of Environment and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, with support from the World Health Organisation, WHO.

Isotu-Edeh in his keynote presentation pointed that E-waste contains over 1000 different chemical toxicants that impact negatively on human health and the environment.

The webinar meeting serves as part of the Phase II Nigeria national E-waste and health intervention supported by WHO, which features Institutional capacity assessment in states, awareness Raising, training of Healthcare Workers and LGA Health Educators, Review of draft of National Policy.

He said: “Pregnant women and children working in e-waste dismantling sites across the country are most vulnerable in impacts and exposure.

“The sustainability of the e-waste and health intervention is key to protecting Nigeria’s gains in maternal and child health.’’

He called on government to consider investing more resources to stem the tide of e-waste to drastically reduce increased cases of cancers and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs), in order to protect the environment from all hazardous substances.

According to the United Nations, UN, in 2021 each person on the planet will produce on average 7.6 kg of e-waste, contains hazardous substances including lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and beryllium and persistent organic pollutants.

Following rise in e-waste traceable to increased use of electronic and electrical devices in the country, stakeholders also have decried the uncontrolled disposal of e-waste by importers, distributors, repairers and consumers.

The Director, Climate Change and Environmental Health, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Shuaibu Bonji, who was represented by Dr Jaggu Akolo, maintained that the Federal Government is serious and committed to rid any environmental health hazard that poses health threat to Nigerians, hence health safety remains paramount.

Bonji also pointed that his Ministry has been working assiduously to eradicate the challenge of e-waste across the country, and however, he solicited for sustained collaboration with other stakeholders to achieve the goal by guaranteeing the health safety of Nigerians.

On his part, Director, Research and Documentation, Nigeria Environmental Summit Group, Dr Kingsley Okpara, condemned environment damaging activities including incessant bush burning and indiscriminate decoupling of disposed electronic and electrical devices as they negatively impact the environment both land, water and air, hence affect the health of Nigerians, as such could be seen in Nigerians living around e-waste sites in Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt.

“We discovered that most people just discard their e-waste without bothering to recycle it formally; this has led to pollution of water sources and the environment.

“Yes, there is a lot of money in it, but e-waste products contain about 1,000 harmful chemicals such as lead, mercury, etc and are carcinogenic in nature.

“Pregnant women, children, work and live at e-waste sites, this should not be. Informal e-waste workers are completely oblivion when it comes to the toxic nature of e-waste”, Okpara said.

Lead Consultant, C-Circle Research, Dr Chimere Ohajinwa, appealed to governments at all levels to intensify investment in home-grown research and halt dependence on foreign research for evidence.

Ohajinwa pointed that one of the panaceas to increasing e-waste in Nigeria is aggressive and sustained
sensitisation and awareness creation on e-waste hazards and management.

She added that current efforts should be upscaled towards stopping the increase of e-waste, especially in the informal.