Chemistry of e-waste: Bad effects

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This post is related to the e-wastes generated from different electrical devices and technologies, and their adverse effect on human health and environments.

Chemistry of e-waste

With the rapid advancement of technology, electronic appliances have become an inseparable part of daily life. Their use is increasing day by day. But what happens to those electronic gadgets which are no longer workable? They are simply discarded and become e-waste.

chemistry of e-waste

Are all e-wastes recyclable? Do they end up in dumping sites and landfill? We have many questions regarding their fate.

Most e-wastes are made of plastic, semiconductor, metals like copper, trace metals, and rare metals. So what is the fate of recycling prospect of those e-wastes recycling chances? We will look after each e-waste below:

E-wasteAnnual waste (in metric tonne)% recycled Major SourceHealth Hazard
Lead4,500,00011,320,000
(250%)
CRT monitors glass, lead-acid batteries, and some formulations of PVC.Impaired cognitive function, behavioral disturbances, attention deficits, hyperactivity, conduct problems, and lower IQ.
Mercury2,250700-900
(31- 40%)
Mercury can be found in fluorescent tubes (numerous applications), tilt switches (mechanical doorbells, thermostats), and flat-screen monitorsHealth effects include sensory impairment, dermatitis, memory loss, and muscle weakness
Cadmium24,000Light-sensitive resistors, corrosion-resistant alloys for marine and aviation environments, and nickel-cadmium batteries.Inhalation of cadmium can cause severe damage to the lungs and is also known to cause kidney damage. Cadmium is also associated with deficits in cognition, learning, behavior, and neuromotor skills in children.
Sulfur8,100,000Found in lead-acid batteries.Liver damage, kidney damage, heart damage, and eye and throat irritation.
Chromium41,000,00010,000,000
(30%)
Used in metal coatings to protect from corrosion.A known carcinogen after occupational inhalation exposure.
Rare earth metals
(lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium, promethium, samarium, europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, holmium, erbium, thulium, ytterbium, and lutetium)
43,000<2500
(<5%)
REEs are used in a variety of industrial applications, including electronics, clean energy, aerospace, automotive, and defense.
Manufacturing permanent magnets are the single largest and most important end use for REEs, accounting for 29% of the forecasted demand in 2020.
Permanent magnets are an essential component of modern electronics used in cell phones, televisions, computers, automobiles, wind turbines, jet aircraft, and many other products.
Low-level radioactive element thorium, exposure to which has been linked to an increased risk of developing lung, pancreatic, and other cancers.

Hence, this e-wastes recycling rate is very less except for Lead. Most of them end up in landfill creating health effects on the neighboring populations. The world should be more serious to focus on increasing the recycling rate of these e-wastes otherwise a mountain of e-wastes problems may generate.

Chemistry of e-waste

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