With a loosened legal framework, Vietnam still cannot tightly control the electronic waste imports. Therefore, scientists have warned that Vietnam is turning into a big electronic landfill.
Scientists say electronic equipment all contain toxic chemicals, especially the six substances that can harm people when they become electronic waste and cannot be handled properly.
Electronic equipments may cause incurable diseases
Tran Quang Hung, Deputy Secretary General of the Vietnam Electronic Enterprises’ Association, provided the information that “gave everybody the creeps” at the Green IT forum held in Hanoi on May 17, 2012, about the toxic chemicals in electronic products.
Hung said that in printing circuits, there are up to 15 kinds of chemicals such as copper, lead, iron, nickel, zinc, glass fiber, of which lead and cadmium are the two most dangerous. In batteries, accumulators, old-aged TV or monitor tubes, there are two very dangerous substances – cadmium and lead oxide.
Meanwhile, switches of different kinds, flat screens contain mercury, and capacitors, transformers contain PBB and PBDE, which are extremely toxic. Even plastic engine covers and insulator in cable also cause ham during the decomposition process.
Hung named six extremely toxic substances which can cause incurable diseases to people. Lead affects the nervous system, the agency creating the blood, affecting the development of memories of the children who often touch these devices. Mercury affects the skin and reproductive function. Cadmium harms liver, kidney, causes bone softening, lung cancer. Chromium 6 may cause skin cancer. PBB affects the nervous system and causes memory loss. Meanwhile, PBDE, like Agent Orange causes birth defects.
When the equipment goes into waste and undergo backward treatment process, the toxic chemicals would escape and harm people.
“Electronic waste itself is not toxic but it is harmful to humans and the environment when it is handled, dismantled, recycled improperly,” Hung said.
Big challenges for Vietnam
There has been no official survey and no official statistics about electronic waste. However, the report of an international institution said that every year, a Vietnamese person discharges one kilos of electronic waste. This means that Vietnam, with 90 million people, discharges 90,000 tons of electronic waste a year.
Besides the domestic waste, Vietnam also suffers the electronic waste imports as well. With the loosened legal framework, Vietnam still cannot strictly control the electronic waste imports, which has turned Vietnam into the world’s rubbish dump.
The treatment of electronic waste has been mainly carried out at private businesses with small operation scale, backward technologies. There are a lot of businesses collecting electronic waste. However, their workers only use simple tools such as hammer, screwdriver, and bucket to dismantle to get parts and accessories for re-sale.
In principle, the procedures applied to treat domestic rubbish must not be applied to treat electronic waste. If burning the waste, the six extremely toxic chemicals would pollute the air, and if dumping the waste, this would cause the water resource pollution.
However, these remain the two only ways which have been used to treat electronic waste so far.
State management agencies have not paid appropriate attention to the electronic waste management, which can be seen in the poor legal framework on the issue. The temporary regulation on the allowed content of some toxic chemicals in electronic products released by the Ministry of Industry and Trade in 2011 remains the only legal document on the issue.
At present, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment is going to submit to the government the draft regulation on recalling and treating electronic waste.
Source: Buu Dien/ VNN
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