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E-waste Imports and Management Practices in Ghana: A 'Case Study of Accra-Tema Metropolitan Area'

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Ghana like many West African countries has become a recipient of large volumes of used electrical and electronic equipment (UEEE), popularly christened, e-waste. This study was conducted to analyse the flow of UEEE imports into Ghana, how such imports are handled and managed; and further assess the potential environmental and health challenges associated with the current management practices. The methodology involved analysis of data on the flow of used computer imports to Ghana, observations and interviews on UEEE imports handling procedures at the Tema Port. Also, heavy metals analysis of soils from control and e-waste sites, and of urine samples from e-waste workers and control group were conducted. The results indicated that though some UEEE /e-waste imports are from developing nations, the larger share of such imports is from the developed regions, particularly Europe and North America. A partial support was thus found for the pollution haven hypothesis. Effective mechanisms for controlling and managing obsolete or non-functional UEEE import flows in Ghana are currently non-existent. Enforcement officials at the Tema port lack the requisite or adequate logistical, technical and legal capacity to effectively handle or tackle such flows. Significantly higher Pb, Sb, As, Hg and Zn concentrations were found in soil from the ewaste recycling/disposal sites compared with those of the control site. Furthermore, significantly higher levels of Pb, Cu and Zn and Sb were found in urine of e-waste workers compared with those of the control group. This suggests heavy metal contamination of soil and exposure of e-waste workers to these metals through e-waste recycling activities which could have adverse environmental and health implications. It is recommended that urgent steps are taken to minimize the importation of non-functional UEEE to Ghana. Adequate and more efficient strategy should also be put in place to properly manage e-waste so as to protect human health and the environment.
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... However this law is targeted more at energy efficiency and phasing out of ozone depleting substances and is not targeted at hazardous substances contained in UEEE/E-waste per se. Specifically therefore there are no laws in place to regulate the importation of second hand computers which has been a menace in the country [17]. ...
... However despite the economic benefits for such e-waste workers, many work on average six years and then exit the industry [17]. The crude methods used during metal recovery and the concomitant health effects have been blamed for the high turnover rate of e-waste workers [17]. ...
... However despite the economic benefits for such e-waste workers, many work on average six years and then exit the industry [17]. The crude methods used during metal recovery and the concomitant health effects have been blamed for the high turnover rate of e-waste workers [17]. This fact informs this study to ascertain the risk exposure of e-waste workers. ...
... However this law is targeted more at energy efficiency and phasing out of ozone depleting substances and is not targeted at hazardous substances contained in UEEE/E-waste per se. Specifically therefore there are no laws in place to regulate the importation of second hand computers which has been a menace in the country [17]. ...
... However despite the economic benefits for such e-waste workers, many work on average six years and then exit the industry [17]. The crude methods used during metal recovery and the concomitant health effects have been blamed for the high turnover rate of e-waste workers [17]. ...
... However despite the economic benefits for such e-waste workers, many work on average six years and then exit the industry [17]. The crude methods used during metal recovery and the concomitant health effects have been blamed for the high turnover rate of e-waste workers [17]. This fact informs this study to ascertain the risk exposure of e-waste workers. ...
... The scrapyard (Fig. 1), adapted from Okine [13], houses large metal containers which store E-waste materials until they are ready to be worked on. Dismantling Samples were taken in the early morning of 16 th July 2019. ...
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This study investigated the levels and spatial distributions of four selected heavy metals in the soil and drainage components emanating from informal E-waste recycling activities at Ashaiman scrapyard, in the Greater Accra Region, Ghana. The metals are Cadmium (Cd), Chromium (Cr), Copper (Cu) and Lead (Pb). Five sampling sites were randomly selected, with top and sub-soil sampled from the two open burning areas (hereafter H and F). Three sites in the drainage that runs through the scrapyard were similarly selected for sample collection; a control upstream (soil-sediment-water; WSC) and two experimental units downstream (soil-sediment-water; WS1 and surface water only; WS2). Four control topsoil samples were taken at distances of 25, 50, 75 and 100 m away from the scrapyard. Composite sample of three sampling units per site, including pH analysis, with two replications per treatment, were investigated using standards methods. Spatial distribution of the metals in the scrapyard were analyzed using Inverse Distance Weighted (IDW) interpolation method. Coefficient of variation (CV) was used to investigate the source of pollution. The pollution levels were investigated using three criteria, namely Geoaccumulation Index (Igeo), Contamination Factor (CF) and Pollution Load Index (PLI). Correlation analysis was used evaluate the relationships between the metals. Mean CV of 88.5% suggests that the scrapyard pollution is anthropogenically-driven. Igeo of soil samples from the scrapyard revealed the following: (i) Cd and Pb (unpolluted to strongly polluted), (ii) Cu (unpolluted to moderately polluted), and (iii) Cr (unpolluted). CF revealed the following: (i) Cd (moderate to strong pollution), (ii) Cu (moderate pollution), (iii) Cr (low pollution), and (iv) Pb (high pollution), but the metals exhibited moderate PLIs. Spatial distribution maps revealed heavy metal pollution decline with distance away from the scrapyard, which was inversely related to pH levels. WSC showed lower heavy metal concentrations than WS 1, while the lowest levels were detected in WS 2. Generally, moderate to very strong correlations existed among the metals in the scrapyard. In conclusion, the scrapyard was the epicenter of E-waste pollution primarily driven by human activities.
Technical Report
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This study investigated POPs contamination at a total of six sites: the world’s largest e-waste scrap yard in Agbogbloshie (Ghana); medical waste incinerators in Accra (Ghana), Kumasi (Ghana) and Yaoundé (Cameroon); and two open-burning waste dump sites in Yaoundé (Cameroon). The study measured POPs in eggs because free-range chickens are “active samplers” of materials on the ground. Eggs also represent an important human exposure pathway through consumption. To our knowledge, this is the first study to measure POPs in free-range chicken eggs from hens foraging at the Agbogbloshie e-waste scrap yard, as well as in Yaoundé. The key findings of this study are: High levels of POPs were found at all six sites The sampling revealed very high levels of chlorinated dioxins, brominated dioxins, PCBs, PBDEs, and SCCPs in the eggs of chickens that had foraged in areas at the e-waste scrap yard, open burning dump sites and medical waste incinerators. Some of the highest levels of POPs ever measured in eggs were found in samples collected at the Agbogbloshie e-waste scrap yard in Ghana Eggs sampled at the Agbogbloshie scrap yard in Ghana contained the highest level of brominated dioxins ever measured in eggs and one of the highest ever measured levels of the flame retardant chemical, HBCD. These eggs also contained the second highest level of chlorinated dioxins ever measured in poultry eggs. An adult eating just one egg from a free-range chicken foraging in Agbogbloshie area would exceed the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) tolerable daily intake (TDI) for chlorinated dioxins by 220-fold. Indicator PCBs in these eggs were four-fold higher than the EU standard and dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs were 171-fold higher than the standard. These eggs also contained very high levels of SCCPs and PBDEs and relatively high levels of other POPs such as PeCB and HCB. Eggs sampled near medical waste incinerators exceeded EU dioxin standards Eggs near the medical waste incinerator in Accra, Ghana exceeded the EU dioxin limit by 13-fold and eggs sampled near the facility in Yaoundé exceeded the limit by more than two-fold. PCBs did not exceed limits, but significant levels were also found. High levels of HBCD were also found in eggs from the vicinity of the Yaoundé waste incinerator and one of the dumpsites. Stockholm and Basel Convention provisions need strengthening Hazardous waste limits in the Stockholm Convention should prevent the export of POPs waste, including e-waste. Currently the existing and proposed limits for POPs found in e-waste and generated by its ‘recycling’ in Africa and other developing regions is far too weak and allows the trade to continue. This includes limits for chlorinated dioxins/furans, flame retardant chemicals such as PBDEs and HBCD, and short chain chlorinated paraffins. These stricter limits (defined as Low POP Content in the Stockholm Convention) should be 50 mg/kg for PBDEs, 100 mg/kg for HBCD and SCCPs and 1 μg TEQ/kg for PCDD/Fs at a maximum. The Stockholm Convention could be further strengthened by listing brominated dioxins. The current provisional e-waste guidelines under the Basel Convention contain a loophole that allows for e-waste export under the guise of ‘export for repair’. This industry-promoted loophole makes the guidelines contradictory to the Convention because electronic products at end-of-life are hazardous waste. This loophole should be closed to preserve the integrity of the treaty. Greater attention is needed to fully implement sustainable healthcare waste management The data obtained from egg samples near medical waste incinerators in this study reinforce concerns over the inadequate healthcare waste management including the use of small incinerators. None of the medical waste incinerators in this study could be considered to employ Best Available Techniques / Best Environmental Practices due to their design, operation, lack of pollution control and lack of waste management for the waste incineration residues. Changing the hospital waste stream by moving away from PVC products, source reduction, segregation, recycling, training, and use of autoclaves and other non-combustion methods should be prioritized. A hospital facility designed for healing should not pollute the food chain or cause adverse impacts on human health and the environment.
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Background. It is estimated that 20–50 million tons of electric and electronic waste (e-waste) is generated per year of which 75–80% is shipped to countries in Asia and Africa for recycling and disposal. In these countries recycling of e-waste is performed with limited and often no environmental or worker health precautions. Activities at these sites often pose harmful threats in the form of soil pollution leading to contaminated water and food as well as air contaminants affecting the health of the workers and children at these sites. Objectives. In an effort to better understand the multitude of chemical releases at these sites, an assessment was conducted at a large e-waste recycling and disposal site located in the vicinity of Agbogbloshie Market in Accra, Ghana. Methods. Environmental (ambient) air samples and worker breathing zone samples were taken for selected metals. In addition, surface soil samples were collected throughout the site and analyzed for lead (Pb). Results. Personal air samples collected from workers and the environment revealed elevated levels for aluminum, copper, iron, lead and zinc. Of the 100 soil samples taken, more than half were above the US Environmental Protection Agency standard for lead in soil. Conclusions. The Agbogbloshie e-waste recycling/disposal site in Accra, Ghana revealed an area with extensive lead contamination in both ambient air and topsoil. Given the urban nature of this site e as well as the large adjacent food distribution market, the potential for human health impact is substantial both to workers and local residents.
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The recent expanded usage of electronic materials like computers, television sets and refrigerators in Ghana has not generated an effective infrastructure of waste disposal. Since wastes associated with many electronic products exhibit hazardous characteristics, the absence of e-waste management law and appropriate infrastructure to handle its end-of-life by-products have compounded the challenges posed by their disposal. Using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, this paper examines the current e-waste management practices in Ghana. It highlights some of the associated environmental and health hazards, and challenges the argument that the exportation of e-products to developing countries will primarily help 'bridge the digital divide'. Finally, it calls on the authorities to enact and enforce appropriate regulations and policies to help bring better environmental control into the booming ICT sector.
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Article
Background. Ghana is one of several West African countries receiving high volumes of used electric and electronic equipment and waste. Within the capital city of Accra, one scrapyard has been the site of extensive e-waste handling, processing and dismantling. Objectives. The Ghana Health Service undertook a study to assess health symptoms and chemical markers of exposure in urine and blood serum. Methods. Eighty-seven e-waste workers and an equivalent control population were enrolled in a study that included: hazard perceptions, reported health symptoms, clinical examinations and urine and blood serum testing. Results. The results indicate that measurable adverse health outcomes are detectable in exposed populations as opposed to unexposed. In addition, statistically significantly elevated levels of the elements barium, manganese, selenium and zinc were present in the urine of e-waste workers as compared to a control group. Similarly, the blood serum levels of barium, cobalt, chromium, copper, iron, selenium and zinc were significantly elevated among those exposed to e-waste recycling. Conclusions. The results indicate that it is likely the Agbogbloshie e-waste proccessing site/scrapyard is exposing workers to hazardous levels of chemical agents. Given the proximity of the residential community, such exposures are likely to affect the local residents as well. Short- and long-term interventions are needed to reduce the chemical health threat to this population. Competing Interests. The authors declare no competing financial interests.