By turning the containers away, Hong Kong thwarted attempts by U.S. companies to dump 1.4 million pounds of broken TVs or computer monitors overseas and an estimated 82,000 pounds of lead, a known toxin, in the devices.
But thousands of other shipments probably slipped through, says Jim Puckett, head of the Basel Action Network, or BAN, a three-employee environmental non-profit that over eight years has become a respected watchdog over the rapidly growing electronics recycling industry.
Puckett expects much more e-waste will be exported from the U.S. once the broadcasting industry switches to digital signals on Feb. 17 and millions of households junk their old analog TV sets.
TOXIC SUBSTANCES IN ELECTRONICS;
Lead: Found in cathode-ray tubes, or picture tubes, in older TVs and computer monitors, as well as in lead-tin solders in circuit boards in all electronics equipment including computers, cellphones, electronic toys, etc. Lead can delay or damage neurological development in children. Can leach from landfills or contaminate drinking-water supplies.
Mercury: Found in lamps that light up laptop screens, most flat-panel TVs, cameras. Also in some older batteries and switches. Can cause brain damage.
Brominated flame retardants: Found in plastic housings of PCs, monitors and TVs, in circuit boards and other plastics and resins. May cause liver and thyroid toxicity. Can be released into the environment when computer parts are heated or shredded.
Cadmium: Found in nickel-cadmium batteries, a phosphor in older TVs. Human carcinogen. May be released by heat and incineration.
Beryllium: Found in finger connectors on circuit boards, such as motherboards and in cellphones. Probable human carcinogen (Lung Cancer). "Nope, nothing bad here, just enough toxic material to drop a heard of elephants. Beryllium, isn't that one of the toxic parts of Chromium 6 that Erin Brockovich found in the California ground water from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company."
Marianna-area resident Freda Cobb worked at the Federal Correctional Institution in Marianna for more than a dozen years, starting there three years before the UNICOR computer recycling program was established.She is one of 26 litigants named in a lawsuit filed in March of last year in U.S. District Court related to the UNICOR operation. She is convinced that many of the medical problems that forced her to leave service in 2004 are related to working in the computer recycling center.
A correctional officer at the time, Cobb also worked overtime in the recycling center as a security officer, and in food service. She said Thursday she went with high hopes to two meetings this week with representatives of the federal government, who came to a local motel to talk with former FCI employees about UNICOR.But her hope quickly dissolved as she sat and talked with a doctor, sent by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a federal agency within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I was hoping for an explanation when I went, for some information about why so many people in his area were sick and why so many have died from this institution,” Cobb said. “I think the count is around 15 now, with staff, vendors, and families of staff. My mama was one of them.”
“The lady said hundreds of computers could be busted in front of me and it wouldn’t hurt us. She told one of the guys that he could go get some salve for his lesions, and basically, she was saying that the symptoms we are having are not related to anything that was in those computers,” Cobb said.
According to Cobb, the visit by federal officials appeared to be little more than a formality.“When she came, I don’t think she even unpacked her toiletry pack because it was such an open and shut case. She was like a person in a burning building running as fast as she can to get out, but saying, ‘No, no, it’s not on fire.’ I could have gotten more out of talking with a block wall than talking with her,” Cobb said. “She said she was here to try to help us, but I think she was just here to say she’s been here.
I got the feeling that she was like, “I’m off the plane, I’m in this little God-forsaken place, get me out of here.’ She was just not receptive to trying to hep us or try to find out the cause (of our problems). There was an excuse for everything.” In the lawsuit, Cobb’s work history was described and her claims laid out.