Is the Latest Really Greatest?

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A quote by Mark Schapiro, a renowned journalist, really puts the electronic waste problem into perspective.

Every year, the United Nations Environment Program estimates that twenty to fifty million metric tons of e-waste are added to that heap.2 [sic] Look around your home: follow the trail from the wires plugged into their sockets, count the toasters, televisions, microwave ovens, DVD players, light bulbs, and other electronic goods; add to that medical devices in hospitals and sophisticated electronic equipment in offices and equipment; multiply by several hundred million, and you can do your own calculations as to the dimensions of that future mass of electrical detritus.

This quote describes almost all of the homes in America. People have a television in just about every room in their house, but that is not the major cause of the problem. Everyday companies release new products. Everyone wants the latest and greatest new item. People think that their “old” electronics just “magically go away”, but they absolutely do not. Society is in danger of electronic waste because the materials used to make these electronics are lethal to living things and to stop the problem, people should not want the problem.

The problem of electronic waste has been around since the beginning of mass-produced electronics. Remember the first black and white televisions? The ones that came out in the year nineteen thirty-nine? These contained deadly cathode ray tubes. The cathode ray tube contains up to eight pounds of the lethal metal lead. This has been proven to have toxicological effects on the human body. The effects on the human body range all the way from brain damage, to kidney disease, to mutations of the human body and many other diseases that people only learn about in health class. The metals lead and mercury affect the nervous system. These toxic substances can also have an impact on a person’s intelligence quotient (I.Q.). Cadmium, another toxic metal in electronics, harms the kidney greatly. Many of the organic substances found in technological trash, in concentrated levels, affect the natural hormone system and some impacts on the neurological system. Up until recently, there has not been considerable concern for the environment and human beings.

To get rid of the problem of electronic waste, the people would need to make certain that the whole population of the world never got their hands on a new gadget again. Imagine everybody’s life without the latest cellular phone, or the newest television around. Without new technology this paper could never have existed. This is the foremost motivation that keeps the entire dilemma going. People just want to have the latest and greatest device. That is a cold, hard fact. To want the better item is just one of the basic human functions. So, to get rid of this problem completely, the population of the world would need to go against their fundamental human nature. The majority of the population of the world would want this dilemma to go away, but the people also want the problem. This may sound like it is not possible, but it is. The people want to stop poisoning human beings and murdering the environment, but at the same time the public body wants the just released gadgets.

In the small town of Guiyu, China, the electronic “recycling” is a huge business. In this community, the population of the town harm the environment in an incomprehensible way. The people here pour acid into the river and let lead and other harsh chemicals pollute the soil and air. The people have no concern what so ever about how what they’re doing will affect their home planet greatly. The people of this town also melt polyvinyl chloride plastic (P.V.C.) around where the children play, which is a very toxic substance. Women will heat circuit boards to pull of the assortment of computer chips off of them, while the men are using a medieval recipe to extract the gold from the different electronics. This is not only happening in Guiyu, China though. In India, a similar scavenging of computer parts is happening. Here, in a town in India, they have the highest levels of toxic metals in the soil, water, and dust. The most common metal is lead. All of the affects that these materials have on the human body build up over time within the human tissue. The people who work in the sweat shops to recycle the electronics give no thought to the environment and to their personal health because they just are trying to earn a living.

When the United States ships used electronic items to China or India they are breaking their own law. In the United States of America, it is entirely, illegal to send any item containing toxic substances. Everyone turns a blind eye about the problem. When Columbia Broadcasting System sent a news team to investigate the problem, they were arrested and taken to the mayor’s office. They were given a tour of one of the shops and allowed about five minutes to film anything. Then, they were given a police escort out of the town. The next day, they drove into Guiyu with a different car and actually filmed quality footage. Soon afterwards, they were mugged for their cameras, but eventually wrestled the equipment back. This just goes to show that no one wants this problem brought out into the pubic view. The people who own the sweat shops know entirely that what they are doing is illegal, yet they continue to proceed with it anyway. The reason that people do this is that they can make tons of money by providing wages that are below the poverty level. In the United States of America, it costs about twenty dollars to recycle an item in a humane and safe way, but in countries such as China and India the cost is only two dollars to recycle the item.

To help stop the problem the manufactures would need to stop using the harsh toxins in their electronic products. The makers of all these gadgets should be able to stop manufacturing the goods without all of the poisons. Or, better yet, the companies could just buy back their old products when their not needed anymore by the general population and create better products out of the recycled old products. Panasonic, an electronic device manufacturer, has already prohibited the use of lead in their products. Some of the wiser companies are already starting to realize their mistakes and start on a new, cleaner path.

Electronic waste is a threat to society because the materials the manufactures use are lethal to living organisms and to get rid of the problem, the world needs to not want the problem itself. To prevent birth defects, prevent any more deaths of the children, and stop poisoning the earth, the people need to put a complete end to the electronic waste problem.





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