Toxic Trade News / 17 September 2008
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Brown Calls for National E-Waste Export Ban
Critical GAO Report Reveals Health Threats from E-Waste Exports
Office of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown ( - Press Release
17 September 2008 (Washington) – Senator Sherrod Brown today introduced legislation that would call for a ban on the export of toxic electronic waste to developing nations. The Senate resolution was introduced on the heels of a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that shows U.S. hazardous waste regulations fail to consider e-waste despite serious concerns about the re-importation of toxic products back to the U.S. and implications for international health problems. Similar legislation was introduced in the House by Texas Congressman Gene Green (D-Houston).

“Instead of reacting to a crisis, our nation should prevent it,” Brown said. “We need to ensure that toxic e-waste is not being exported, much less re-imported as a child’s toy or jewelry. We must ban this practice immediately.”

According to the Commerce Department, as much as 80 percent of e-waste collected for recycling is sent overseas. E-waste is sent to developing countries that lack disposal regulations and few – if any – environmental or worker safety protections. Materials from the e-waste is used in the production of toys and jewelry for children and shipped back to U.S. stores.

“News stories over the past two years have highlighted recall after recall of Chinese-made imports for lead contamination,” said Dr. Jeffrey Weidenhamer, a professor of chemistry at Ashland University in Ohio. “Yet at the same time, the US has continued to export large quantities of toxic electronic wastes which contain high levels of lead, cadmium and other toxic metals. This e-waste is shipped to China and other nations, where it is recycled in very crude ways that exact a huge environmental and human toll. Evidence suggests that some of this recycled material may come back to haunt us in the form of contaminated products such as children's jewelry. We have exported e-waste for the same reasons that we have exported jobs – because it is cheaper to dump e-waste overseas than to make sure it is recycled properly. It is long overdue for the United States to join other developed nations in banning the export of hazardous electronic waste.”

“Current e-waste policy amounts to a revolving door of toxic trade,” Brown said. “In addition to banning this practice, Congress should examine domestic recycling possibilities. Recycling our own e-waste can create U.S. jobs and prevent contamination at home and abroad.”

In 1989, countries began to sign the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, designed to prevent hazardous waste from moving from rich to poor nations. Today 170 countries are party to the Convention. The United States is the only industrial country to that has failed to ratify the Basel Convention.

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