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Soaring e-waste affects the health of millions of children – WHO

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WHO has warned that effective and binding action is urgently required to protect the millions of children, adolescents and expectant mothers worldwide whose health is endangered by the informal processing of discarded electronic devices.

According to WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, he said in a statement that, the health threat was growing, in line with the mounting tsunami of e-waste.

“We need to rally to protect our most valuable resource, in the same way the world has rallied to protect the seas, the health of our children from the growing threat of e-waste.”

An estimated 12.9 million women who work in the informal waste sector were potentially exposing themselves and their unborn children to the toxic.

“Informal methods of removing materials from e-waste have been linked to a range of health effects, especially in children.

“Children, adolescents and pregnant women are most vulnerable in recycling e-waste.

“They absorb pollutants relative to their size and, with not-fully-developed organs, are less able than adults to eradicate harmful substances,’’  WHO said.

According to WHO lead author, Marie-Noel Drisse, improper e-waste management is a rising issue that many countries do not recognise yet as a health problem.

It calls for governments to ensure environmentally sound disposal of e-waste and the health and safety of workers and communities.

The health sector is also being asked to reduce adverse effects from e-waste by building up capacity to diagnose, monitor and prevent toxic exposure, and to advocate for better data and health research on risks faced by informal e-waste workers.

“Children and adolescents have the right to grow and learn in a healthy environment, and exposure to electrical and electronic waste and its many toxic components unquestionably impacts that right,” she said.

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