Toxic eggs expose growing e-waste crisis

Some of the most toxic chemicals in the world have been found in chicken eggs near a dumpsite in Ghana, where EU countries send massive amounts of hazardous electronic waste every year.

The investigation found the presence of brominated and chlorinated dioxins as well as other pollutants in the eggs of chickens that had foraged near Agbogbloshie – a district in Accra, Ghana’s capital and home to one of the biggest dumpsites in the world.

Source: ‘Weak Controls: European e-waste poisons Africa’s food chain’ (IPEN/BAN)

IPEN and the Basil Action Network (BAN), which carried out the study, said the contamination results mostly from the dismantling of electronic scraps containing toxic chemicals such as flame retardants and the burning of plastics through which locals hope to recover materials that can then be sold on the black market.

Even small quantities of the pollutants found in the eggs would be enough to cause irreversible harm to local people. The report found that eating just one of the poisoned eggs would exceed the European Food Safety Authority limits on chlorinated dioxins 220 times over.

The consequences could be devastating. Locals in Agbogbloshie are known to suffer from lung problems, chronic nausea and respiratory problems caused by exposure to highly toxic heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. Most of them die from cancer while in their 20s, Aljaazera reported in 2014.

The authors of the study said that food, soil, air and water contamination is a consequence of poor controls on the international trade of electronic waste, and called for more stringent controls of hazardous waste under the current Stockholm Convention.

In response to the study, Sam Adu-Kumi, who works for Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency, said:

“Europe needs to contend with its toxic e-waste, rather than routing it to developing countries, such as Ghana, where hazardous chemicals contaminate populations (especially the vulnerable) and the environment, as a result of mishandling and existing indiscriminate disposal practices.”

African countries should not be used as an e-waste dumping ground any more, as we do not have the technological capacity to deal with waste containing high levels of persistent organic pollutants,” he added.

Only two months ago, in a separate investigation, BAN shed light on the illegal trade of electronic waste that goes from EU countries to Asia and Africa.

The group installed GPS trackers in 314 old computers, printers and monitors. Two years later, the group found that 19 of the tracked scraps were exported, including 11 illegal shipments to Ghana, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tanzania, Thailand and Ukraine.

The group estimated that the flows discovered would total 352,474 metric tonnes a year – enough to fill 17,466 large-size intermodal shipping containers.