E-Wastes and their Harmful Effects

E-wastes come from the discarded electronic devices such as CTRs, diodes, ICs, etc. These devices contain the materials like cadmium, beryllium and other harmful elements so if the e-wastes are processed informally then this leads to serious problems to health as well as environment. The effects with the e-waste materials are given below.

1. Beryllium
Electronic equipments with copper-beryllium alloys contain 2% of beryllium. The fumes that are produced during the inhalation of beryllium leads to serious health diseases like chronic beryllium disease (CBD) and also breathing high amount of beryllium fumes leads to Acute beryllium disease (ABD) which causes breathing shortness, cough, chest pain and rapid heart beat in intense cases.

2. Cadmium
Cadmium is mostly used in switches and contact materials. Cadmium-sulphide is used in CRTs as phosphor coating. This is highly toxic to animals, plants and humans. Cadmium is emitted from in the recycling process of CRTs which releases cadmium-sulphide dust. This leads to lung cancer, damages human kidneys and also calcium levels in bones.

3. Hexavalent chromium
Hexa-valent chromium is used as corrosion inhibitor and hardening element. It is a chemical form of metal chromium. This is soluble in water and also more reactive. Even at low levels of concentration it is toxic which causes skin allergy, damages kidney and also liver. The major risk with this hexa-valent chromium is cancer.

4. Lead
Electrical solder on printed circuit boards contains metallic lead. CRTs contain the lead oxide in high quantities in old models it is 2-3 kg and now in new models it is 1 kg. When this CRTs and PCBs are exposed to higher temperatures or crushed then lead in it gets released.

This material comes into environment and gets accumulated for more time compared to other pollutants. Lead is highly toxic to humans, plants and animals. It damages blood and nervous system, effects kidneys and reproductive system.

5. Mercury
Old mainframe computers and switches are the sources of mercury and it is used as a lightening material in flat screen display devices. Mercury enters waterbodies and converts in to methyl mercury. Inhaling high levels of mercury vapor causes effect on kidney and central nervous system.

6. Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs)
These are bio-accumulative and prevents combustion and flames in variety of plastics. This material gets accumulated in breast milk and human blood. This effects the neuro-behavioral developments in human, they interface on thyroid hormones which effects on development and growth.

7. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
PVC is integrated in electronic products such as insulation of wires and cables. During the production process an burning process it produces furans and dioxins. They live for long time in environment and are toxic even in low levels of concentration.

8. Phthalates (Phthalate esters)
These are ester derivatives of phthalic acid and are primarily used in consumer and industrial applications in high quantities. Some of the minor applications include paints, adhesives, etc. They accumulate in biological tissues. A phthalate is a reproductive toxin that interferes testis development in mammals.

9. Organo-tins
Organo-tins are organic compounds that contain at least one bond between metal tin and carbon. This material affects human liver and mainly on monkey’s liver.

Better management of e-wastes could lead to less harmful effects on the environment.

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