China pledges to clamp down on electronic waste

The Chinese Government has announced that it is to clamp down on the import of electronic waste from the US, following a campaign by western environmental groups against the situation where poor Chinese villagers are employed to dismantle waste electronic equipment with no protection against their hazardous chemicals or components.

The new list of banned items will include “TV sets, computers, Xerox machines, video cameras and telephones”, the UK’s Guardian newspaper reports.

The hazardous conditions under which villages near Guiyu town in the southern province of Guangdong, include a four-year old girl prizing copper coils out of shattered components without even basic safety goggles, and the fact that local water is reported to be so polluted that people’s faces develop scabs if they wash in it.

Villagers say that they know the health risks, but have no alternative because agricultural incomes are so poor.

According to environmental groups Basal Action Network and Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition in a report earlier this year, up to 80% of electronic waste from the US is shipped to countries in Asia, because of the low costs involved comparing to waste disposal at home (see related story).

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