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Chemical contamination at e-waste recycling and disposal sites in Accra and Korforidua, Ghana

TitleChemical contamination at e-waste recycling and disposal sites in Accra and Korforidua, Ghana
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsBrigden K, Labunska I, Santillo D, Johnston P
Prepared forGreenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Note
InstitutionGreenpeace International
CityAmsterdam, The Netherlands
ISBN Number10/2008

This study, the first to investigate workplace contamination in areas in Ghana where e-waste recycling and disposal is carried out, focussed on the main centre for this type of work, at the Agbogbloshie scrap market in Ghana’s capital, Accra. One of the numerous similar, though far smaller, operations that take place throughout Ghana was also investigated, at the location of a scrap dealer in Korforidua, a smaller city to the north of Accra. At these workshops, e-waste is recycled in a crude way, primarily involving manual disassembly and open burning to isolate copper from plastics. Much of the work is carried out by children, commonly using only rudimentary tools and with no protective equipment.Severe chemical contamination was found in ash contaminated soil samples from open burning sites at both Agbogbloshie and Korforidua, as well as in sediment from a shallow lagoon at the Agbogbloshie site. Most samples contained numerous toxic and persistent organic chemical pollutants, as well as very high levels of many toxic metals, the majority of which are either known to be used in electronic devices, or are likely to be formed during the openburning of materials used in such devices. The nature and extent of chemical contamination found at these sites in Ghana were similar to those previously reported for e-waste open burning sites in China, India and Russia.

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