The tech industry’s dirty little secret. Electronic consumerism has erased any connection we might once have had to notions of earthly plenitude. We now live as devices of our own devices, not as inhabitants of a living planet. By Richard Maxwell. Image: Gideon Wright (CC BY 2.0) Smart wearable technologies, such as the Apple Watch, are this year’s “must have” item — their makers are banking on it. Apparently, there is a model for everyone. As always, professional high-tech-trend watchers (a pun now worn on their wrists) are not just selling the commodity; they are also spreading the faith in the magic of the machine, the gadget’s enveloping mist of enchantment that compels us to buy it. Ironically, electronic consumerism has erased any connection we might once have had to notions of earthly plenitude. As a species-for-things, we spend about US$1 trillion a year on consumer electronics. When we join all the dots between our high-tech lifestyles and the power grid, a carbon footprint the size of the aerospace industry’s emerges.
Toxics and Poverty. The Human and Environmental Effects of E-Waste. (April 2013) Roughly 40 million metric tons of electronic waste (e-waste) are produced globally each year, and about 13 percent of that weight is recycled mostly in developing countries. About 9 million tons of this waste—discarded televisions, computers, cellphones, and other electronics—are produced by the European Union, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). And UNEP notes that this estimate of waste is likely too low.1 Informal recycling markets in China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, and the Philippines handle anywhere from 50 percent to 80 percent of this e-waste, often shredding, burning, and dismantling the products in "backyards.
" Emissions from these recycling practices are damaging human health and the environment.2 Developing countries with rapidly growing economies handle e-waste from developed countries, and from their own internal consumers. The informal sector's recycling practices magnify health risks. References. Wcms_196105. Facts_and_Figures_on_EWaste_and_Recycling.pdf. Electronic waste. 2010.-.UN.PDF. Health Effects | Mercury. People in the U.S. are mainly exposed to methylmercury, an organic compound, when they eat fish and shellfish that contain methylmercury. Whether an exposure to the various forms of mercury will harm a person's health depends on a number of factors (below). Almost all people have at least trace amounts of methylmercury in their tissues, reflecting methylmercury’s widespread presence in the environment and people’s exposure through the consumption of fish and shellfish. People may be exposed to mercury in any of its forms under different circumstances.
The factors that determine how severe the health effects are from mercury exposure include these: the chemical form of mercury; the dose; the age of the person exposed (the fetus is the most susceptible); the duration of exposure; the route of exposure -- inhalation, ingestion, dermal contact, etc.; and the health of the person exposed. Mercury exists in three chemical forms. Methylmercury effects Mercury and Cancer. Top of page. Digital Dump. 7 Stunning Statistics Show the True Cost of Owning A Smartphone. The iPhone 6 has been called the “most anticipated Apple smartphone ever,” which likely puts it in the running for most anticipated electronic device in recent history. Millions of people will buy, upgrade or rob unsuspecting subway passengers for it, and the image of hypnotized commuters and rude dinner dates transfixed by its glowing screen will become as common as … well, as it is right now with every other smartphone.
In short, business as usual. But there’s a dark side to the story that few people are talking about. Our semi-utopian view of the technologies that, for our generation, have become the equivalent of an extra limb conveniently ignore the troubling process by which they’re made and disposed of. A prime example is the 10-minute documentary that’s been making the rounds over the past few days, in which directors Heather White and Lynn Zhang explore some of the troubling labor practices and health side effects linked to Apple factories in China. Human Health and Lead, Addressing Lead at Superfund Sites | Superfund | US EPA.
For links to information on preventing lead poisoning, please refer to the Related Links page. Lead in the Environment Lead is a naturally-occurring element that can be harmful to humans when ingested or inhaled, particularly to children under the age of six. Lead poisoning can cause a number of adverse human health effects, but is particularly detrimental to the neurological development of children. To learn more about the effects of lead poisoning and EPA's role in reducing the presence of lead in the environment, visit EPA Lead. For hundreds of years, lead has been mined, smelted, refined, and used in products (e.g., as an additive in paint, gasoline, leaded pipes, solder, crystal, and ceramics). Lead particles in the environment can attach to dust and be carried long distances in the air. Top of page Possible Ways to be Exposed to Lead Symptoms of Lead Exposure Lead poisoning can be a serious public health threat with no unique signs or symptoms.
In adults, lead poisoning can cause: U.S.