Unfortunately, many electronics recyclers, resellers, and waste brokers do not operate under strict environmental controls. After removing the valuable metals from electronic equipment, they send the remaining scrap to landfills and incinerators. Even worse, they export it to developing countries where it is disassembled and recycled under largely unregulated, unhealthy conditions. As a result, e-waste — discarded computers and other consumer electronics — is a growing global issue, with serious implications for the environment, human health, and the security of confidential and proprietary electronic data...
Electronics and their components are full of toxic materials such as lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg), brominated flame retardants (BFRs), and more. When e-waste is crushed in landfills or otherwise improperly disposed, it creates a hazardous environmental and human health legacy for current and future generations.
Lead exposure causes brain damage in children. It harms the kidneys as well as the nervous and reproductive systems.
The accumulation of cadmium in the human body poisons the kidneys.
Just 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury can contaminate 20 acres of a lake, making the fish unfit to eat. Mercury can be passed from mother to child through breast milk; even very low doses cause brain and kidney damage.
BFRs may seriously affect hormonal functions critical for normal development. A recent study of dust on computers in workplaces and homes found BFRs in every sample taken.
If not properly destroyed prior to reuse or disposal, electronic data remains on storage devices such as hard drives and removable media. The sheer volume of computer equipment being disposed of today poses a significant threat to the protection of confidential and proprietary information housed on these storage devices. At risk: everything from private customer information and health records to corporate secrets, licensed software, and consumer credit card information.