CRT imports posing a major health, environmental hazard: Toxics Links

Massive Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) imports coupled with lack of proper recycling policies and inadequate implementation processes have made India its dumping ground, states the Toxics Link’s latest publication “Looking Through Glass-CRT Glass Recycling in India”, released recently in the city.

CRT, popularly called the picture tube, is generally used in TV sets and computer monitors and contains large amounts of lead. It is one of the most hazardous e-wastes, as pointed out by the international community during Basel Convention. The lead content that may add up to 1.5-2 kilograms in one piece of CRT has immense environmental and health impact. Once dumped in landfills, the lead-filled CRT glass leachate ends up seeping into the soil and groundwater, while when hammered to break into pieces, the lead dust particles may pollute the air.

The first-of-its-kind study published in India highlights the improper recycling practices of the leaded CRT glass.

Researchers at Toxics Link speculate that CRT waste problems in India may increase manifold. This is because LCDs and LEDs are increasingly replacing CRT monitors; therefore the scope for re-use of CRT glass to manufacture new CRTs is fast decreasing.

The concern is critical as the toxic (leaded) glass from CRT mixes with clean glass and is used to make household glass products. These products retain the toxicity of lead and can lead to high exposure to the end users.

The lead and other chemicals in CRTs have alarming health impacts, both on the workers involved with recycling, and the end users of such recycled products. Some of the critical health impacts of lead include delayed mental and physical development, learning difficulties, hearing problems, kidney damage, and most importantly a reduced IQ. These effects are acute among children between 0-6 years.

Toxics Link associate director Satish Sinha said: “The CRT market is dwindling and still the imports are not receding, this clearly points towards the possibility that countries are dumping used CRTs into India. If it continues like this, India will be saddled with a huge amount of toxic leaded glass.”

Disposing CRT is a challenge in other countries too, and most of them have strict regulations. The Basel Convention controls the trans-boundary movement of e-waste including CRT, and the practice of its export is illegal under the convention.

The Indian policy on e-waste does categorise “glass cullet from cathode ray tube” as hazardous, and emphasizes consent before import and recycling of such products, but the implementation process is quite lopsided.

Toxics Link director Ravi Agarwal says: “A clearer and more specific guideline will be helpful in solving this issue. But equally important is the implementation process of such policies and guidelines, which require capacity building of all stakeholders across the country.”

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 6:21:11 PM |

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