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Electronic Pollution And Its Harmful Effects On The Environment

م. رسل علي عبد الواحد
            The issue of pollution of the environment how to reduce it has become more concerned for humanity today, The deterioration caused by irresponsible human behavior began effects manifested through climatic, environmental and health problems that began to appear from the global warming to the breadth of the ozone layer and the rising of  temperatures, waves of hurricanes and droughts that hit different parts of the world. Electronic waste is a kind of environmental pollution which is called (the hidden danger), many types of pollution caused by factory waste such as solid materials, liquid or toxic gaseous emitted from factories can determine its pollution through vision or smell, but the most dangerous and which cannot be determined its danger is electronic waste and therefore this products can be defined as outputs that made ​​up by the use of consumer of electronic devices which its virtual life was ended or waived for the existence of the newer, and thrown into the waste, include televisions, electronic computers, camcorders, mobile phones and others. All these devices are shared in to two traits that make it as electronic waste which is the existence of either electronic board or cathode ray tube and the last one contains the ratios of lead in a level leads to increase in toxicological properties and thus it well produce a hazardous wastes , beside to phosphorus, chromium, barium and carbon and other elements that will be mentioned during the Search. As the reality of the electronic waste in Iraq, we note that the local market in Iraq invade of used and new electronic appliances from shoddy origins as these products increases and as a result of its poor origins lead  to early consumption turning to waste. Iraqi citizen has a little experience in dealing with these wastes and therefore the disposal process are difficult that pose a significant risk to health and the environment due to the accumulation of old computers in homes and household waste dumps and due to the lack of knowledge in the community about the dangers of electronic waste and its impact on the environment and human health that required find out problems and risks of these wastes to deal with them with an emphasis on the basic role of the state to control the electronic waste through the control of non-entry the bad electronic appliances to Iraq and put an educational programs for people to avoid throwing electronic waste with household waste and prepare plans and projects to collect waste for the purpose of re-used or recycled after the dismissal of harmful and toxic substances which are within the electronics parts.
Damage of electronic waste:
Electronic waste forms a threat to human health and safety because it contains toxic substances harmful to humans and the environment. The electronics contain more than a thousand kind of chemical elements, including chlorinated solvents, heavy metals, plastics and gases. Also used in the manufacture of electronic products parts and circular connectors and boards which become a source of danger when damage, and when the concerned try to randomly disposed, so the toxic substances spills into the natural resources from water, air and soil, which is reaching to humans through the food chain or by inhalation. The risk of electronic waste is not limited to humans alone but also to all components of the environment from animal, plant, birds and air, either directly or indirectly and the risk of electronic waste Stems from chemicals involved in the industrial process for those electronic waste, for example, the electric wires which are found in all devices are insulated with (PVC) which it does not decompose easily and if it burned produced toxic gases affect health. The other matter which is no less important for electronic waste is what is called electronic-smog or (E- smog).This phenomenon goes back to the multiplication of the use of wireless communications and electromagnetic waves produced from electrical appliances. Let us imagine the outgoing waves of devices such as radio, television and satellites and strengthen the wireless broadcasting of mobile phones that become have homes and towers near residential neighborhoods and even become over their homes, besides the mobile phones and microwave home’s devices and other devices which cannot today man indispensable. The following are the toxic ingredients which the electronic waste contain and its impact on the environment, water , air and soil:
  • Toxic componentsandtheirimpactontheenvironment:
The seriousness of e-waste is that it contains more than 1,000 different items, many of them toxic components including lead and arsenic which are found at a high rate in old TV screens , Dioxins and antimony trioxide and bromide compounds that are found in plastic wrappers, cables and circuit board, and the dangerous selenium that exists in the integrative circuit boards which helps in regulating the passage of electrical current in it , cadmium which is also found in integrative circuit, chromium which is used in the packaging of steel to protect it from rust and corrosion, cobalt which is used in some devices to make use of its magnetic properties and mercury which is used in the manufacture of circuit breakers and also found in the keyboard and flat screens.
The first affected from the electronic waste is the human then the other elements in the environment (air, water, soil) comes after, where the recycle of these waste is the most important causes of environmental pollution as the content of these devices from toxic components that effect on health and the environment. in the field of recycling it causes many health problems for workers, and in the field of re-burning the outer parts of the electronics it results a lot of toxic gases that have the certain effect on global warming in the universe. Practical Studies went to consider that four months from the date of the dumping of electronics in the waste is enough to turning it into a timed bomb.
  • Water and air pollution:
More than 70% of the heavy metals including the mercury, cadmium, tin, which exist in landfills come from electronic waste. And these materials without exception involve a great dangers to the environment through the seepage into food cycle of the animals and humans across the water when dumped in landfills or on the Suburbia of cities. These metals and toxic electronic components that working on groundwater polluting. And the nature of these highly toxins wastes which represented in the carbon dioxide that results from burning of waste which consider the main cause of global warming and thereby lead to the pollution of the air, and when waste is exposed to moisture and rain it leads to water pollution, especially groundwater.
  • Soil pollution:
The heavy metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and dioxins are entered in the electronics industry, and analyzing means the accumulation of element ,and Intermix and its transfer to the soil, where toxic substances combined works to deterioration of soil quality, and becomes unsuitable for cultivation in any way, and the danger can be transmitted to groundwater if it was close to the surface ground.
We refer here to the most hazardous components of electronic devices and its health effects:
toxic materials
Effects and dangers
Where you find?
if being exposure to low doses for long periods, it disrupt the communication between cells, and problems occur in growth, heart disease, cancer and diabetes
Microwave, electronic circuit boards, commutator, motors
Loss of calcium in bones, pain, osteoporosis, in the case of inhalation leads to lung damage and death
Cellular phone or mobile phones batteries
Skin irritation and rashes
Strong material used in manufacturing the plastic
throat infection and lungs, liver and kidney damage
Copper wire, electronic circuit boards
If the doses are high, it lead to cancerous diseases
Rechargeable batteries
If there had been a frequent dose there is a danger of being subjected to ARGYRIA disease (blue and gray color patches on the skin)
Cellular phone or mobile phones
substance leads to cancerous diseases
 polyvinyl chloride
If landfill in the ground, the toxic substances will spread in the ground and water .and In case of burning plastic, the carbon dioxide will spread in the air, causing damage to the immune system and causing cancer
Screens, keyboards, mouse, laptop, USB key
Short-term exposure: diarrhea, lung damage nausea, vomiting
In the long term: defect in the brain, kidneys and fetal
Batteries, flat screens, commutator
Disposal of electronic waste:
A considerable efforts should be made to guide people how to get of the electronic waste safely, from this perspective awareness should be raised with regard to recycles of the electronic waste at the provincial , governments regions, neighborhoods and even schools and universities levels .While the remaining percentages of electronic waste that is not recycled its destination could be:
  • Storage: It is not a solution because it delays the day of the disposal of electronic device permanently, also it leads to reduce the chances of re-use of these devices effectively.
  • Land filling or incineration: Where the electronic waste and the household waste are mixed and Ends up to landfills or incinerators, and in both cases it is polluting the environment.
  • Export: Thousands of electronic devices are exported each year, from computers, phones and home appliances by the technologically advanced countries to the developing countries, in order to be re-used or recycled . the major parts of these devices are recycling incorrectly way in junk yards which leads to widespread contamination.
  • Reuse: It is a process of repair damaged part of the electronic devices to create a simple operations .
Recycling electronics:
Recycling in general is an act of waste treatment for the production of new items, in addition to that it is the proper way to dealing with electronic waste that help to reduce the amount of waste which usually collected in landfills . And thus it is a way to help reducing the emission of toxic substances if the devices have been buried in the ground.
Waste recycling process consists of steps:
  • Extraction of toxic materials: This is done by removing toxic elements from electronic waste with avoiding getting pollution during this process, and from toxic elements we mention lead, glass that extracted from the screens and chlorine fluorine carbon gases that emitted from refrigerators and batteries.
  • Disassembly: During this stage all the materials are divided into several parts, including tires mineral and energy supplies, circuit boards and plastic. The possibility of keeping the pieces viable to reform during this process consider the feature this stage.
  • Refining: Refining is regards a final step in the process of recycling the electronic waste, technical solutions in refining the materials in the electronic waste are available without a negative impact on the environment, so that the majority of the pieces are need a lot of work to be sold as secondary raw materials, or to be disposed of in final recycling location. During the refining process it must be taken into account the existence of three toxic substances which are metal, plastic and glass, as metals are separated in a large refinery using the chemical mixing process which produced about 17 kinds of minerals and metals, as for the plastic material, it cannot be reused because it is often contaminated with toxic chemicals, therefore it is necessary to separate plastic materials according to their contents and treated separately with regard to materials that cannot be reused it should be recycled. While glass can be recycled and used again and we mention in this regard that the factories concerned with recycling are able to recover iron, manganese, zinc and mercury, so it transported safely to the facilities for disposal.
Electronic waste trade :
In the past most states were got rid of these devices in traditional ways, either buried in the ground or thrown it in the sea or burned, and it was discovered later that this process is harms the environment and spread to humans, and have reached most countries recently that the best way to get rid of these devices by rotate and take advantage of in other Industries. But commercial companies deliberately to trick to get rid of these devices through donated to poor countries to avoid the expenses of processed. The poor countries prefer to buy a used devices at low prices, but it does not know that it cause problems for itself, so some countries prevented the import of these materials and some states enacted laws and systems for the disposal of electronic waste in healthy and scientific ways.
1. Johnson, Tim (April 9, 2006). “E-waste dump of the world”. The Seattle Times. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002920133_ewaste09.html. Retrieved 2007-03-09.
2. “Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia” (pdf). Basel Action Network. February 25, 2002. http://www.ban.org/Ewaste/technotrashfinalcomp.pdf.
3. Leung, Anna (March 4, 2008). Hong Kong. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es071873x?prevSearch=heavy+metals&searchHistoryKey.
4. “Scientific Articles”. Basel Action Network..
ليال صقر ,2010,”كيف يتم التخلص من النفايات الالكترونية”, مجلة الجيش اللبناني 5.
شبكة العلوم العربية ,”النفايات الالكترونية” ,منتدى علوم البيئة 6.

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