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AMA Tackles E-Waste

e_wasteDR. SIMPSON BOATENG, the Director of AMA’s Public Health Department, is set to tackle the ‘e-waste’ issue with a presentation in Agbogbloshie this week. ‘E waste’ describes electrical items shipped to Ghana from developed countries under the label ‘second hand goods’.

Of the tens of thousands arriving each year, majority is useless and is dumped in Agbogbloshie as scrap. Hundreds of workers in the area earn meager living selling metal components inside the discarded goods. Children and teenagers form the majority. To extract the metal, they burn items to melt away their plastic casings, inhaling toxic chemicals in the process.

Thousands of lethal substances are released into the air from the smoldering electricals, poisoning the workers slowly. An investigation by environmental organization Green Peace found 100 times the recommended levels of toxic substances in Agbogbloshie soil last year.

The results place Ghana on par with China and Russia, the worst culprits for e-waste contamination. Dr. Boateng claims workers do not realize they are causing themselves serious damage.

“The people are ignorant of the effect their work has on the health”, he lamented, stressing that awareness is crucial. “Workers need to realize that the effect is not to them alone, but also to the public at large and the environment”, he told DAILY GUIDE.

The problem is expected to get worse this year, on account of the U.K and U.S switch to digital television, prompting millions of users to upgrade their TVs. As a result, thousands of out of date analogue sets will be dumped in Ghana. Senior Environmental Health Technologist, Wisdom Aditsey, is aware that the influx is getting out of hand.

“I can foresee an enormous health crisis”, he admits. Dr. Boateng and Mr. Aditsey are hopeful the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will formulate an e-waste policy urgently, which their department can then implement.

In the meantime, the duo are striving for safer working conditions, hence Thursday’s presentation. In partnership with Projects Abroad Human Rights Office, the event sponsors, Mr. Aditsey will educate workers on the dangers of handling e-waste and distribute free protective safety masks and gloves.

The dangers posed at Agbogbloshie have received international attention, contributing to a tense global debate. European and U.S laws dictate only fully functioning electricals can be exported as ‘second hand goods’.

With up to 90 per cent of this equipment useless on arrival, e-waste in Ghana is largely an illegal export industry. Activists call for e-waste exports to stop, urging manufacturers to take responsibility for destroying products at end of life. The impact of this for the Agbogbloshie workers could be disastrous however, rendering them jobless.

Dr. Boateng stated that he would welcome foreign initiatives to recycle e-waste safely, as seen in South Africa and elsewhere. Admitting that these steps could not be undertaken by his department, he claimed, “Such solutions are beyond our current resources”. In the mean time, Dr Boateng stresses his commitment to minimizing harm to the workers, thanking Projects Abroad for their assistance.

Yussif Mahama of the Agbogbloshie Scrap Dealer Association told DAILY GUIDE he welcomes the presentation, describing the event as “extremely valuable” to the workers. Translated into Ga and Twi, the presentation will take place on the football field at Agbogbloshie dumpsite at 12pm on Thursday November 12th. Refreshments and protective clothing distribution will commence afterward.

Source: dailyguideghana

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