EPA Lets Electronic Waste Flow Freely, GAO Report Says

A new report from the Government Accountability Office blames the Environmental Protection Agency for the dumping of hazardous electronic waste into other countries such as China. From the Washington Post:

The 63-page report — commissioned by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) — is a scathing critique of the EPA’s failure to control the export of used electronic equipment, which often is sent to China, India and other countries to be dismantled under unsafe conditions. U.S. authorities have yet to develop a national approach for handling the waste, which often contains toxic metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium. Amounts are rapidly growing as consumers replace their laptops, cellphones and televisions.

“It’s a really inadequate situation that we’ve allowed to continue,” said Berman, whose panel is holding a hearing on the issue today. “We have a regulation where, as far as I can tell, there’s no effort to enforce it.”

[…] Toxic materials in electronics do not leach out while the products remain intact, but once they are disassembled, the ingredients can enter the air and water. A 2007 study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that children in Guiyu, a Chinese village where discarded electronics are dismantled, have lead levels in blood that are 50 percent higher than limits set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more on this topic, see the documentary e-Dump by CDT’s Michael Zhao. See also a series of photos of the electronic waste dumps in China, by Natalie Behring.


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