Toxic Trade News / 6 September 2006
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Protesting Toxic Waste Dumping in the Ivory Coast
by Oread Daily, Infoshop News
6 September 2006 – Youths blocked roads in Ivory Coast's economic capital Abidjan on Wednesday to protest at the dumping of pungent toxic waste which doctors said killed two people and made hundreds ill after it was found around the city.

"There were two deaths, a four-year-old girl and another aged nine years," an official at Abidjan's teaching university hospital of Cocody, where more than 340 people have been treated since Thursday told South Africa's News 24.

Authorities said the petrol-type substance with a high sulphur content was unloaded from a Panamanian-registered ship at Abidjan port on August 19 and then dumped in at least eight sites around the densely populated city.

The government was holding an emergency meeting in the political capital Yamoussoukro to work out a response and had requested international help to analyse the substance and work out how the city can be decontaminated.

Toxic waste dumping has been going on in the Third World for several years. Countries in the West find it cheaper to export their wastes to poor Third World countries, than to dispose of the wastes themselves.

Lately, its been high tech waste dumping in less developed countries thats become all the rage. First world computers end up in these landfills because developed countries ship them there either as charity (the idea is that these computers actually still work) or as waste. The reason why they go to all the trouble of shipping their old computers to countries like India and China instead of dumping them in their own landfills is that computers are toxic.

While you are not likely to get mercury poisoning or develop cancer from sitting in front of your computer, the hazardous materials in computers become a serious concern when they are left to leak into the land and water supply.

"A lot of these materials are being sent [to developing nations] under the guise of reuse—to bridge the digital divide," Richard Gutierrez, a toxics policy analyst for the Seattle, Washington-based Basel Action Network told National Geographic.

Earlier this year the activist organization issued a report titled "The Digital Dump." The paper concludes that three-quarters of the supposedly reusable electronics shipped to Africa's largest port are broken.

One of the problems is that no one certifies whether donated machines work before they hit the seaways. Because of this, the report says, e-waste is a growing problem in Lagos, Nigeria, and elsewhere in the developing world.

Gordon Davy, an engineer with technology firm Northrop Grumman in Baltimore, Maryland, responded to this in a manner that betrays the thinking of corporate power. He told National Geographic,"Pollution in the third world is clearly deplorable," he said. "But as far as health consequences [of e-waste is concerned], the environmental activists need to provide supporting evidence. They need to identify and count their victims."

Richard Gutierrez, a toxics policy analyst for the Seattle, Washington-based Basel Action Network responded to Davy's incredible statement. "We're dealing with toxic substances that have been studied to death. We need not come up with further studies. It would be an overanalysis of an obvious problem."

"The e-waste crisis is relatively young," he said. "The problems [that people] are being exposed to will germinate for years. By the time chronic diseases such as cancer arise, it will be too late to avert a public-health disaster," he said.

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