e-waste recycling turns water, soil toxic

July 29, 2014 12:00 am | Updated 05:32 am IST - NEW DELHI:

Extremely high levels of heavy metals found in samples from Loni and Mandoli

Lab testing of soil and water samples from the Loni and Mandoli areas of Delhi reveals high contamination of both with heavy metals and other impurities. Shockingly, even the drinking water at both the locations contained high amount of toxic metals.

The report, “Impact of e-waste Recycling on Water and Soil”, released on Monday by non-government organisation Toxics Link, revealed that toxic elements including mercury, lead, zinc, along with acids and chemicals are released during e-waste recycling and are contaminating soil and water in the surrounding areas.

“Our neighbourhoods are at great risk of being permanently damaged by toxins from e-waste,” noted the study.

At Loni, some water samples reveal mercury level as high as 20 times the prescribed limit, while at Mandoli zinc level in a sample was 174 times higher. “Increased amount of toxic elements are a clear indicator that water at both the places is not fit for drinking. Toxic metals such as lead and zinc slowly damage vital organs and also reduce the IQs and understanding capabilities of children,” said Dr. Prashant Rajankar, programme coordinator, Toxics Link.

The findings also show lead level in soil at Loni to be very high, with one sample as high as 147 times the prescribed limit. The findings at Mandoli were equally shocking with lead level in one of the samples being 102 times higher than the prescribed limit. The study findings also establish release of heavy metals and other contaminants from recycling units at both locations.

Loni and Mandoli are simply two examples from the vast number of such crude recycling units operating in Delhi and across India.

Presently, around 2.7 million tonnes of e-waste is generated every year and reports suggest that almost 90 per cent of this waste is being recycled in the informal sector in and around large cities.

To manage such toxics, “e-waste (management and handling) rules-2011” is currently operational. It puts the onus of e-waste disposal onto the producers of such goods and instructs the State Pollution Control Board to monitor the implementation.

“In spite of the rules, we find piles of e-wastes and a number of recycling units operating in Delhi and at other places. Rather than simply closing them down, the government agencies need to come up with more effective measures,” said Satish Sinha, associate director, Toxics Link.

The report is among the few in India that scientifically corroborate damage to soil and water through toxics from e-waste. Besides providing data on increased levels of zinc, lead and other toxic elements and chemicals, the study also scientifically examines electrical conductivity, hardness and turbidity in the selected samples of Mandoli and Loni.

“There are only few scientific reports like this one. We hope it will trigger more such studies in other parts of the country and eventually the government will come up with better guidelines and push for stricter implementation of e-waste rules,” said Ravi Agarwal, director of Toxics Link.

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