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Agbogbloshie Dumpsite, Ghana

Site Name: Agbogbloshie Dumpsite, Ghana

 

Pollutant: Lead

 

Population Affected: 40,000+

 

Site Description:

Agbogbloshie dumpsite in Ghana's capital, Accra, is one of the main hubs for electronic waste (e-waste) disposal in West Africa, particularly from old computers and computer monitors. Since the late 1990s, countries around the globe have been sending millions of tons of e-waste to be processed each year on the site, which is home to more than 40,000 people.1 Men, women, and a significant amount of children, with no protection, attempt to recover power supply housings, circuit boards, wires and small capacitors by crudely breaking, smashing or burning discarded circuit boards, cathode ray tubes, and other discarded electronics. After anything of value has been stripped away, the bulk is then dumped, untreated, into unlined pits and waterways. Other than the shards of broken glass and metals, the main pollutants come directly from the black smoke that reports say hover over the dump all day, everyday. The smoke is mostly from piles of copper cables that are lit on fire to burn the plastic coatings off. In order to keep the fires burning, old car tires are also added to the flames.

 

In 2009, PBS cited the Korle Lagoon as “one of the most polluted bodies of water on earth.”2 In 2011, the BBC reported that over seven million containers of e-waste are exported each year from the United Kingdom, alone.3 Many of the recyclers are young adults, with children scavenging in the area. Health effects already seen include lowered IQs in children due to lead exposure, nervous system diseases from mercury, and even effects from high levels of cadmium exposure.4 Elevated levels of toxins have been discovered in the soil and air, as well as in local water sources and food samples. Work has been underway since 2008 to introduce hand and mechanized wire-stripping tools.

 

 

 

 

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1 “Time up for Sodom and Gomorrah”. Peace FM Online Ghanaian News. 4 September 2009. Available at: news.peacefmonline.com/news/200909/25988.php

2 Klein, Peter. 2009. “Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground”, PBS/Frontline. Available at: www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/ghana804/video/video_index.html

3 BBC. 2011.“Britain’s e-waste illegally leaking into West Africa”. Available at: news.bbc.co.uk/panorama/hi/front_page/newsid_9483000/9483148.stm

4 ABC News. 2009. “U.S. Electronic Waste Gets Sent to Africa”. Available at: abcnews.go.com/GMA/Weekend/story

 

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Environmental Reports

 

Since 2007, the yearly environmental toxin reports published by Green Cross Switzerland and the Blacksmith Institute have been instrumental in increasing public understanding of the health impacts of toxic pollutants and their sources.

 

The Environmental Toxin Report 2012 describes known environmental toxins and points to their industrial applications and most frequent health effects. In addition, the Report identifies the ten most important sources of environmental toxins and quantifies, for the first time, the global scale of health damage due to toxic substances. It also shows that the health impacts of industrial pollutants measured are roughly equal to those of the three major global infectious diseases AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

 

The Environmental Toxin Report 2011 is based on the estimated number of people affected by the sources of pollution, as well as the number of locations, identified worldwide, where environmental toxins occur in concentrations that are detrimental to health. Reports on the ten most dangerous sources of environmental toxins and the worst pollution problems were issued in the years 2008 and 2010. The environmental report published in 2009 contains case studies concerning successful remediation projects.

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