Emerging public health threat of e-waste management: global and Indian perspective

Electrical and electronic waste or e-waste is emerging as a major public health threat worldwide because of rapid advances in technology leading to the generation of large amount of wastes and a lack of knowledge in handling of these wastes. The current review discusses the current e-waste problem worldwide, as a public health concern, with a specific focus on India and recommendations to have effective e-waste management. This is a traditional review study. The burden of e-waste, regulations and its impact on health and the environment at the global and country level were identified using various search engines such as PubMed, Google Scholar, Scopus and ScienceDirect. Books, case studies, legislation documents, reports, original articles and other documents from international organisations and specific governmental agency websites were retrieved. In total, 33 original articles, reports, case studies and documents were used for this review. In 2016, 44.7 million tonnes of e-waste were generated with 2 million tonnes produced in India alone. Out of this, only 20% of the e-waste generated globally was handled properly. The situation is worse in India where more than 90% of the e-waste was handled by informal sector workers. An important problem with the process is that they do not take necessary precautionary measures before handling e-waste. Components which are not suitable for reuse are burnt openly or disposed of through open dumping. Most of the informal sector workers are illiterate making them unaware of the hazardous chemicals that can be released later into the water sources and the environment. The current review shows that the e-waste poses a serious global public health threat leading to significant environmental and health risks. Most of the developing countries including India were found to be lagging behind in the implementation of environmentally sound formal recycling processes. Hence, a better life cycle assessment model which have been successfully implemented in other developing countries should be introduced in India.

Authors: Krishnamoorthy Y, M V, Sakthivel M, Sarveswaran G. ; Full Source: Reviews on Environ Health. 2018 Aug 11. pii:/j/reveh.ahead-of-print/reveh-2018-0021/reveh-2018-0021.xml. doi:10.1515/reveh-2018-0021. [Epub ahead of print]