Greenpeace: WEEE poisons Ghana

Toxic chemicals are leaching into soil at scrap yards in Ghana as a result of electronic waste sent to the country from the developed world, according to a Greenpeace investigation.

A team from the campaign group, including a scientist, took analyses of soil and sediment samples from two scrap yards – one in the capital city Accra and one in the city of Korforidua.

They found lead in quantities 100 times higher than in normal soil samples, and the presence of phthalates, which can cause birth defects, and chlorinated dioxins, which can cause cancer.

The impact these chemicals could have is particularly a concern as many of the workers at the scrap yards are children.

“Many of the chemicals released are highly toxic. Some may affect children’s developing reproductive systems, while other can affect brain development and the nervous system,” said Dr. Kevin Brigden of Greenpeace International.

Members of the team said they witnessed containers filled with old and often broken computers, TVs and other waste electrical and electronic (WEEE) items from household names such as Dell, Microsoft and Nokia.

These come from countries such as Germany, Korea, Switzerland and the Netherlands under the false label of “second-hand goods”, Greenpeace said.

In a new report Chemical contamination at e-waste recycling and disposal sites in Ghana the group documents the environmental contamination it found at the WEEE recycling sites.

Greenpeace appealed for electronics producers to stop using hazardous chemicals in their products.

“Unless companies eliminate all hazardous chemicals from their electronic products and take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products, this poisonous dumping will continue,” said Martin Hojsik, Greenpeace International’s toxics campaigner.

“Electronics companies must not allow their products to end up poisoning the poor around the world.”

Watch William Abaidoo, from the Environmental Protection Agency in Ghana, talk to Greenpeace about the agency’s fears for the future impact of WEEE.

Kate Martin

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie