Advances in Technology Leading Advances in Health Problems and Excessive Waste
It seems like every month companies are coming up with new technology in newer, more
appealing devices. To survive in today’s competitive technology market, companies are producing more
products to increase profits and maintain customer loyalty. American consumers are falling for the
companies’ strategies and purchasing the new models and discarding the old. This is catapulting the
increase in the amount of e waste. In 2000, over 4.6 million tons of e waste was dumped in US landfills.
What is even more alarming is that this figure is only the amount of waste recorded by the US EPA and
does not include all the waste collected by private e waste recycling businesses or the amount that has
been illegally dumped.
These sites have already begun harming many Americans. In Kettleman City, California,
residents reported birth defects in 25% of children born this year and three of the twenty infants died.
Just outside of Kettleman City is a 1,600 acre toxic waste dump. Initially, residents were blaming the
tragedies on the carcinogenic PCBs, but claiming the PCBs are to blame is not valid. The US
environmental protection agency has conducted numerous studies on the effects of PCBs and birth
defects are not one of them; yet the residents’ claim that toxic waste sites are to blame is not entirely
inaccurate. In 2003, the EPA labeled the waste site as having “unusually high levels of radiation.” 2 The
EPA has conducted studies that prove radiation causes mutations in DNA which can be passed on from
mother to infant.3 One radioactive chemical that comes from nuclear and military toxic waste is
uranium. A review of a medical study published on Pubmed Central concludes that uranium is a
teratogen. A teratogenic is a substance that interferes with the growth of a fetus, causing birth defects. 4
The EPA should now think twice about how safe the US dump sites really are with almost 11 million
people in the US live within a mile of a federal waste site.
With over 1,305 recorded toxic waste sites in the United States alone, disposal has been
redirected to other countries as well.5 It is estimated that 50 to 80 percent of US e waste collected for
recycling has ended up in countries such as India, Africa and China. The United States is not alone in this
venture. In 2003, the United Kingdom sent out over 23,000 metric tons of e waste to these developing
countries. People of these countries are experiencing illnesses from the rancid fumes of the dump sites
and the people working at the sites are additionally acquiring scarring, chemical burns. The heaps of old
electronics are not just taking up space; they are being dumped in cities near water sources and crops.
The amount of waste and its locations cannot be ignored. There are not just the reproductive effects.
These sites are capable of crippling food and water sources. Just this year when Haiti just recently had
“Where does E Waste Go.” Green Peace. September 13, 2010.
Merchant, Brian. “California Toxic Waste Dump Feared to Cause Brith Defects.”TreeHugger. February 9, 2010.
Discovery Communications. September 10, 2010. <http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/02/california-toxic-
“Understanding Radiation: Health Effects.” Radiation Protection. February 23, 2010. U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency. September 13, 2010.
Brugge, Doug, Rite Hindin, Bindu Panikkar. “Teratogenicity of Depleted Uranium Aerosols: A Review from an
Epidemiological Pespective.” Environ Health 4.17 (2005)
“Polution Locator: Superfund.” Scorecard: The Polution Information Site. Green Media Toolshed.
September 10, 2010.<http://www.scorecard.org/env-releases/land/>
its earthquake, toxins leaked into the water systems and soil from waste sites. 6 Unresolved, this issue
will only continue to affect future generations and resources. While clean ups are occurring all over the
United State’s, toxic waste will only continue to be a problem with its continuous production. The key to
solving this problem is to change consumer and company values, from obsolescence to desiring less
harmful materials in products and a need for functionality, not exclusive trends.
Cernansky, Rachel. “Haiti: Toxic Waste Dump Site Before the Earthquake, Lucrative Cleanup Contract
After.” Planet Green. February 10, 2010. Discovery Communications. September 13, 2010.