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The Importance of Managing eWaste in West Africa

Nigeria does not have a formal recycling sector for safe management of e-waste, every month about 500,000 tons of electronic and electrical equipment is dumped in workshops, open spaces, water sources and landfills. More than half of this is near end of life or completely damaged. When rain falls on informal waste dumps, polluted liquids leach out. These liquids contain toxic chemicals and metals, bacteria and viruses. They find their way into the ground and surface water, and can be taken up by plants and end up in animals and people. Even though these e-waste dump sites are a health hazard, many people make their living on them. According to the International Labour Organisation, up to 100,000 people work in the informal e-waste recycling sector in Nigeria. They collect and dismantle electronics by hand to reclaim components that can then be sold. These people are at risk of infection and physical injury from handling waste. In one study, researchers collected blood samples and cheek cell samples from teenagers who were sorting through waste at the Alaba international electronic market. We found their blood contained much higher levels of heavy metals than a control group.