Pollution from E-Wastes

Hello! Welcome back to another post on E-Wastes. From the previous post, we have discussed the various types of E-waste. Now, this blog post will focus on how exactly does E-Waste pollute the earth. This can be discussed in two themes: how it is harmful to humans, as well as how it is harmful to the environment. Ultimately, the production and consumption of E-wastes contribute massively to Environmental Pollution.

How is it harmful to humans?

Health risks may result from direct contact with toxic materials that leach from e-waste, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Toxic minerals include lead, cadmium, chromium, brominated flame retardants, or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). It is harmful when humans inhale the toxic fumes, and the environment with the accumulation of chemicals in soil, water, and food, which can ultimately affect the food that we eat. Studies have shown this global e-waste pollution has not only detrimental effects on the people that work with the e-waste but also the people that live around it. In fact, in developing countries, the risks are exceptionally high because some developed countries send their e-waste there. Because of this, a proper recycling process needs to be put in place to protect us and future generations, most especially those who are vulnerable to large dumps of e-wastes.

How is it harmful to the environment?

While above ground, modern electronics are safe to use and be around. However, most electronics contain some form of toxic materials, including beryllium, cadmium, mercury, and lead, which pose serious environmental risks to our soil, water, air, and wildlife. When e-waste gets buried at a landfill, it can dissolve in microscopic traces into sludge that permeates at the landfill. Eventually, these traces of toxic materials leach into the ground below the landfill. The more E-waste and metals at the landfill, the more of these trace toxic minerals get leached in the groundwater. The problem is that the amount of e-waste pollution is just massive, and all the trace amounts have ballooned over the years. That toxic water under the landfill doesn’t stop below the landfill. It continues to the groundwater and the sources to all the freshwater in the surrounding area. Not only is this bad for anyone using a natural well, but it hurts the nearby wildlife. That, in turn, causes the wildlife to get sick from lead, arsenic, cadmium, and other metal poisonings due to the high concentration of these minerals. Mentioned from above, this will also affect our food chain and the food that we eat, as we can get metal poisoning.

Heavy metals are the most persistent pollutants in the environment because of their resistance to decomposition in a natural condition (Ra et al., 2013). When heavy metal levels exceed from their permissible limits, they become toxic. Under certain environmental conditions, heavy metals might accumulate up to toxic concentration levels, and pose negative impacts not only in an environment but also on human health (He et al., 2017).

Pollutive Aspect?

  • Companies keep producing and manufacturing
  • Consumers keep buying! This is linked to the phenomenon ‘designed for the dump’ or Planned Obsolescence which we will talk about in our next post!


Gangwar, C., Choudhari, R., Chauhan, A., Kumar, A., Singh, A. and Tripathi, A. (2019). Assessment of air pollution caused by illegal e-waste burning to evaluate the human health risk. Environment International, 125, pp.191–199.