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Ghana’s e-scrap activities ‘the worst toxic threat’

Ghana – The Blacksmith Institute and Green Cross Switzerland have released a detailed report to serve as ‘a snapshot of some of the worst pollution problems in the world’. At the head of the list of the ‘Top Ten Toxic Threats’ is the neighbourhood of Agbogbloshie in Ghana, which is described as the second-largest e-scrap processing area in West Africa.

Ghana imports around 215 000 tonnes of discarded consumer electronics each year – primarily from Western Europe – and generates 129 000 tonnes of e-scrap per year, according to the report. ‘Assuming growth continues in a linear manner, Ghana’s e-waste imports will double by 2020,’ it adds.

Of primary concern is the burning of sheathed cable to recover copper, for which Styrofoam packaging is used as a fuel. Recent samples taken from around the perimeter of Agbogbloshie have revealed levels of lead as high as 18 125 parts per million in the soil; the US Environmental Protection Agency standard for lead in soil is 400 parts per million.

‘A conservative estimate of Ghana’s population at risk might fall in the area of 40 000 people,’ states the new report. What’s more, industrial pollutants caused by irresponsible lead-acid battery recycling is affects the health of more people than malaria all over the world, according to Blacksmith calculations.

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