So, bringing global corporations back to the US rather than keeping them at bay and rebuilding local factories required to follow workplace safety and environmental regulations to keep our water and air safe is what global pols do!
THE BALTIMORE CITY REGION WILL BE HIT HARD AS JOHNS HOPKINS SOAKS THE MEDICAL WASTE FROM BIO-TECH INDUSTRY AND PUSHES TECHNOLOGY INDUSTRIES. Oh, that is why Baltimore's underserved communities have been allowed to become third world---
if you want to see what kind of people do this look at the executive boards of Johns Hopkins and Baltimore Development and Baltimore City Hall and Maryland Assembly pols! Below you see what burning this toxic waste does---and Baltimore is slated for medical incinerators that are not safe no matter what they say. Oh, don't worry ----they were planned to be placed in an underserved community like the effects are not felt everywhere if you do not care about poor people.
'The results suggest burning the e-waste is a dangerous practice. Burning releases many of the toxic chemicals into the environment where it settles in dust, is breathed by people and contaminates food sources and wildlife'.
E-waste chemicals change workers DNA
May 31, 2008
Wen, S, F-X Yang, Y Gong, X-L Zhang, Y Hui, J-G Li, A-L Lui, Y-N Wu, W-Q Lu and Y Xu. 2008.
Elevated levels of urinary 8-hydroxy-2’-deoxyguanosine in male electrical and electronic dismantling workers exposed to high concentrations of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and polychlorinated biphenyls. Environmental Science and Technology 42:4202-7.
Synopsis by Wendy Hessler and Carys L. Mitchelmore
Chinese factory workers who dismantle computers and other electronic equipment waste (E-waste) are chronically exposed to high levels of dangerous chemicals that damage their DNA and are known to cause a variety of health ills. This study highlights the high exposures and health hazards associated with handling E-waste under less controlled conditions. Workers had more damaged DNA than non-factory workers, 5-times more altered DNA after work than before and higher levels of some chemicals than reported in U.S. workers. Dust samples from the factories contained orders of magnitude higher levels of chemicals than have been reported in other worldwide studies. Many adverse health effects have been linked to the pollutants and this type of DNA damage can lead to cancer and premature aging.
Context More than 50 million metric tons of E-waste (old and outdated electronics, such as computers, cell phones and fax machines) is produced worldwide each year. Experts speculate this number will rapidly increase well into the future.
Currently the vast majority of this waste is sent to developing countries, such as SE China. There, workers manually dismantle the equipment to reclaim the copper and other prized materials found in the products. Much of the E-waste is crudely processed, often by open burning, which releases a range of highly toxic contaminants (e.g. dioxins, insulators (PCBs), fire retardants (BDEs), heavy metals) into the environment.
The so-called persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, make up a large part of the chemical residue from E-waste recycling. The long-lasting substances accumulate in fat and are known to contaminate air, soils, sediments, animals and people. They can cause a range of health problems, including cancers, immune system problems and reproductive dysfunctions.
DNA damage is one common effect when POPs interact with cells. The mingling produces oxygen radicals, which are free roaming oxygen atoms. The rogue oxygens can change the cell’s DNA structure and alter its function in ways that can lead to disease and premature aging.
Many recent studies report that the soil, plants and animals (including rice, fish and other food sources) near E-waste processing sites in China are highly polluted with hazardous chemicals released during the dismantling and burning activities. Not surprisingly, dust samples from the factories themselves contain high levels of dangerous chemicals, including POPs and heavy metals (). Even though the workers, who handle the waste and breath the dust and smoke, bear the brunt of the exposures, little is known about the health hazards they face during a typical day.
What did they do? Researchers collected and analyzed hair and urine samples from workers and indoor dust samples for organic pollutants at two electronics dismantling factories in East China during July 2006. The 64 male workers who participated in the study were between 18 and 60 years old and had been working at the factory for a minimum of one-year. Researchers collected hair samples from workers before they started their shift. Hair can reflect exposure to pollutants because, as it grows, it incorporates contaminants circulating in the body. Hair samples were washed to remove surface (dust).
DNA damage from chemical exposure was determined by comparing levels of a chemical marker found in urine samples taken from each participant before and after work on the same day. The marker, 8-hydroxy-2’-deoxyguanosine (8OH-dG), is used to estimate oxidative DNA damage and cancer risk.
Indoor dust was sampled at three factories that had been in use for between 6 and 8 years.
Hair, urine and dust samples were analyzed for total dioxins (polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans, PCDD/Fs), flame retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PBDEs) and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). The researchers examined specific chemical patterns as a way to identify the main source of each of the accumulated chemicals.
What did they find? Almost every targeted type of PCDD/Fs, BDEs and PCBs the researchers looked for were found in all but a few hair samples analyzed. In all, only three PCBs were absent from some of the hair samples.
Chemicals levels in the dust samples were orders of magnitude higher than those reported in other published studies. For example, PCDD/Fs levels were more than 500 times higher than those found in house dust from Japan and 5-10 times higher than dust collected from other electrical plants. Total PCB levels were nearly 1,000 times greater than those reported from the US. Similarly, BDE levels were 2 times higher than the highest indoor dust samples collected in the US.
The workers' hair was contaminated with the highest published concentrations of PCDD/Fs, BDEs and PCBs. Only a handful of published studies report amounts of these compounds in hair so there is little existing data to compare the current results with. However, PCDD/Fs were between 20 to 40 times higher than other Chinese and Japanese workers. PCB levels were nearly 100 times greater when compared with some Chinese and Belgium studies. Potentially this may mean that the workers have high body burden levels of these chemicals, although blood or tissue samples were not analyzed.
The dioxins, flame retardants and PCBs measured in hair and dust came mainly from the open and uncontrolled burning of the e-waste. The major flame retardant found, BDE-209, known as deca, is also the most widely used in electronic products. Interestingly, the range of PCB types identified in the people and the dust reflects their heavy historical use in transformer capacitors and in the area's past as the place where the capacitors were dismantled.
Measured levels of the oxidized DNA biomarker in the workers' pre-shift urine were higher than those in the general Chinese population. However, a huge increase in this DNA damage marker was seen in post-shift workers. Levels were nearly 5 times higher after work than before work. These sharp increases indicate that workers' cells experienced oxidative stress during the work shift. Other E-waste pollutants, such as heavy metals, may also play a role, but this study did not identify which contaminants were responsible . The high levels of DNA damage reported are much higher when compared to workers with other occupational exposures and close to the elevated concentrations that are typical in some cancer patients.
What does it mean? This is one of the first studies to report the very high exposures to dangerous chemicals and health hazards in Chinese workers who handle E-waste under less controlled work situations that are typical in countries that dismantle most of the world's old electronics. Workers had some of the highest levels and widest range of chemicals ever found.
The results suggest burning the e-waste is a dangerous practice. Burning releases many of the toxic chemicals into the environment where it settles in dust, is breathed by people and contaminates food sources and wildlife.
Indoor dust from these E-waste dismantling factories contains extremely high levels of toxic chemicals - orders of magnitude higher that levels found in other studies of indoor dust. Potentially, as the authors suggest, this dust should be considered a hazardous waste and should be disposed of appropriately.
Chemically-laden dust can be inhaled or eaten (via hand-mouth contact) by people. Indeed, the elevated levels of these chemicals in the hair samples of these workers suggests that this is the case and reducing exposure of these workers to these toxic by-products should be a priority for worker safety.
The cellular DNA damage, caused by the constant exposure to the waste, may increase the risk of cancer and lead to serious health problems for the workers exposed to these heavily toxic pollutants. The highly elevated levels of the DNA damage biomarker seen in workers after their work shifts demonstrates that the E-waste causes oxidative stress and resultant DNA damage. The DNA biomarker levels are nearly as high as those seen in cancer patients. There is a high potential cancer risk originating from the E-waste sites.
E-waste and its disposal are major world problems. Contaminants from the materials are getting into workers and affecting their cell processes. More stringent worker protection and controlled burning facilities are probably necessary to keep these toxic chemicals out of the environment and people.
Clinton neo-liberals and Bush neo-cons have been dismantling all of these Federal agencies all the while selling this as good for business and job growth to Republican voters who will overwhelmingly be the workers in these kinds of factories. Don't think only poor people of color are going to be the only source for these jobs. Don't think that only the immigrants being brought with these global corporations setting up shop in the US will be exposed. Trans Pacific Trade Pact seeks to bring US workers down to third world level by allowing all US Constitutional rights, including labor and environmental laws be ignored. 90% of Americans will not escape this including the families of the current pols moving all this bad policy through for the neo-liberals and neo-cons.
Super-sizing the technology industry in the US means super-sizing all of the damage done in Asia as described below. The Affordable Care Act was installed just to move over 80% of Americans from even being able to seek anything other than preventative care and they did this knowing they were going to expose most Americans to these horrible conditions.
THESE ARE SOCIOPATHS FOLKS----THEY COULD CARE LESS ABOUT LIFE----THEY ARE SIMPLY WORKING FOR PROFIT!
This is why corporatizing universities was important for Clinton and Bush. Public universities are where all research and data comes to protect public interest and hold power accountable. If you purge all the academics-----LIKE ME-----you open up the ability to juke the stats----hide the damage to people and environment with lying, cheating, and stealing as is third world.
Baltimore City is having our entire K-12 privatized to apprenticeship K-12 just so children can be tracked into this brutal factory work and living conditions and it is church and community leaders aligned with this. This is what manufacturing job training community college is about folks----
DO YOU HEAR YOUR POLS EDUCATING ON WHERE ALL THESE TRANS PACIFIC TRADE PACT AND VOCATIONAL TRACKING SCHOOLS WILL LEAD? NOT IN BALTIMORE OR MARYLAND!
China: The electronic wastebasket of the world
By Ivan Watson, CNN
Updated 8:54 PM ET, Thu May 30, 2013
Where your used electronics go in China 03:38 Story highlights
- U.N. report: "China now appears to be the largest e-waste dumping site in the world"
- Products originally produced in China are now finding their way back as electronic junk
- The small town of Guiyu as been a major hub for the disposal of e-waste
- "When recycling is done in primitive ways ... it is hugely devastating for the local environment"
Chances are some of your old electronic junk will end up in China.
According to a recent United Nations report, "China now appears to be the largest e-waste dumping site in the world."
E-waste, or electronic waste, consists of everything from scrapped TVs, refrigerators and air conditioners to that old desktop computer that may be collecting dust in your closet.
Many of these gadgets were initially manufactured in China. Through a strange twist of global economics, much of this electronic junk returns to China to die.
"According to United Nations data, about 70% of electronic waste globally generated ended up in China," said Ma Tianjie, a spokesman for the Beijing office of Greenpeace.
"Much of [the e-waste] comes through illegal channels because under United Nations conventions, there is a specific ban on electronic waste being transferred from developed countries like the United States to countries like China and Vietnam."
For the past decade, the southeastern town of Guiyu, nestled in China's main manufacturing zone, has been a major hub for the disposal of e-waste. Hundreds of thousands of people here have become experts at dismantling the world's electronic junk.
On seemingly every street, laborers sit on the pavement outside workshops ripping out the guts of household appliances with hammers and drills. The roads in Guiyu are lined with bundles of plastic, wires, cables and other garbage. Different components are separated based on their value and potential for re-sale. On one street sits a pile of green and gold circuit boards. On another, the metal cases of desktop computers.
At times, it looks like workers are reaping some giant plastic harvest, especially when women stand on roadsides raking ankle-deep "fields" of plastic chips.
In one workshop, men sliced open sacks of these plastic chips, which they then poured into large vats of fluid. They then used shovels and their bare hands to stir this synthetic stew.
"We sell this plastic to Foxconn," one of the workers said, referring to a Taiwanese company that manufactures products for many global electronics companies, including Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard.
Dirty, dangerous work
This may be one of the world's largest informal recycling operations for electronic waste. In one family-run garage, workers seemed to specialize in sorting plastic from old televisions and cars into different baskets. "If this plastic cup has a hole in it, you throw it away," said a man who ran the operation, pointing to a pink plastic mug. "We take it and re-sell it."
But recycling in Guiyu is dirty, dangerous work. "When recycling is done properly, it's a good thing for the environment," said Ma, the Greenpeace spokesman in Beijing.
"But when recycling is done in primitive ways like we have seen in China with the electronic waste, it is hugely devastating for the local environment."
According to the April 2013 U.N. report "E-Waste in China," Guiyu suffered an "environmental calamity" as a result of the wide-scale e-waste disposal industry in the area.
Matchmaking: Chinese style 03:36 PLAY VIDEO
Baby rescued from toilet pipe 01:45 PLAY VIDEO
Cracking China's film market 04:21 PLAY VIDEO
Backlash against Chinese tourists 03:51 PLAY VIDEOMuch of the toxic pollution comes from burning circuit boards, plastic and copper wires, or washing them with hydrochloric acid to recover valuable metals like copper and steel. In doing so, workshops contaminate workers and the environment with toxic heavy metals like lead, beryllium and cadmium, while also releasing hydrocarbon ashes into the air, water and soil, the report said.
For first-time visitors to Guiyu, the air leaves a burning sensation in the eyes and nostrils.
Studies by the Shantou University Medical College revealed that many children tested in Guiyu had higher than average levels of lead in their blood, which can stunt the development of the brain and central nervous system.
Piles of technological scrap had been dumped in a muddy field just outside of town. There, water buffalo grazed and soaked themselves in ponds surrounded by piles of electronic components with labels like Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Epson and Dell.
The enormous animals casually stomped through mounds of sheet glass, which clearly had been removed from video monitors.
Flat screen displays often use mercury, a highly toxic metal.
"Releases of mercury can occur during the dismantling of equipment such as flat screen displays," wrote Greenpeace, in a report titled "Toxic Tech." "Incineration or landfilling can also result in releases of mercury to the environment...that can bioaccumulate and biomagnify to high levels in food chains, particularly in fish."
Most of the workers in Guiyu involved in the e-waste business are migrants from destitute regions of China and poorly educated. Many of them downplayed the potential damage the industry could cause to their health.
They asked only to use their family names, to protect their identity.
"Of course it isn't healthy," said Lu, a woman who was rapidly sorting plastic shards from devices like computer keyboards, remote controls and even computer mice. She and her colleagues burned plastic using lighters and blow-torches to identify different kinds of material.
"But there are families that have lived here for generations ... and there is little impact on their health," she said.
Several migrants said that while the work is tough, it allows them more freedom than working on factory lines where young children are not permitted to enter the premises and working hours are stringent.
Used to be worse
Despite the environmental degradation and toxic fumes permeating the air, many in Guiyu said that conditions have improved dramatically over the years.
"I remember in 2007, when I first came here, there was a flood of trash," said Wong, a 20-year-old man who ferried bundles of electronic waste around on a motorcycle with a trailer attached to it.
"Before people were washing metals, burning things and it severely damaged people's lungs," Wong added. "But now, compared to before, the [authorities] have cracked down pretty hard."
But residents who did not work in the e-waste business offered a very different take on the pollution in Guiyu.
A group of farmers who had migrated from neighboring Guangxi province to cultivate rice in Guiyu told CNN they did not dare drink the local well water.
They claimed if they tried to wash clothes and linens with the water, it turned fabrics yellow.
The head of the group, who identified himself as Zhou, had another shocking admission.
"It may not sound nice, but we don't dare eat the rice that we farm because it's planted here with all the pollution," Zhou said, pointing at water-logged rice paddy next to him.
Asked who did eat the harvested rice, Zhou answered: "How should I know? A lot of it is sold off ... they don't dare label the rice from here as 'grown in Guiyu.' They'll write that its rice from some other place."
Pollution causing cancer in this village? 03:00 PLAY VIDEO
Build it, and will they come in China? 03:32 PLAY VIDEO
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China's bling dynasty 01:59 PLAY VIDEO
Not that surprising considering that the latest food scandal to hit the country earlier this month is cadmium-laced rice. Officials in Guangzhou city, roughly 400 kilometers away from Guiyu, found high rates of cadmium in rice and rice products. According to the city's Food and Drug Administration samples pulled from a local restaurant, food seller and two university canteens showed high levels of cadmium in rice and rice noodles. Officials did not specify how the contaminated rice entered the city's food supply.
CNN made several attempts to contact the Guiyu town government. Government officials refused to comment on the electronic waste issue and hung up the phone.
However, it did appear that government efforts to restrict imports of foreign waste are reducing the flow of e-trash here.
"Why are they stopping the garbage from reaching us?" asked one man who ran a plastic sorting workshop. "Of course it's hurting our business," he added.
Domestic e-waste grows
The Chinese government had some success regulating e-waste disposal with a "Home Appliance Old for New Rebate Program," which was tested from 2009 to 2011.
With the help of generous government subsidies, the program collected tens of millions of obsolete home appliances, according to the U.N.
Even if Chinese authorities succeed in limiting smuggled supplies of foreign garbage, the U.N. warns that the country is rapidly generating its own supply of e-waste.
"Domestic generation of e-waste has risen rapidly as a result of technological and economic development," the U.N. reported. It cited statistics showing an exponential surge in sales of TV's, refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners and computers in China over a 16-year period.
To avoid a vicious cycle of pollution, resulting from both the manufacture and disposal of appliances, Greenpeace has lobbied for manufacturers to use fewer toxic chemicals in their products.
The organization also has a message for consumers who seem to swap their phones, tablets and other computer devices with increasing frequency.
"Think about where your mobile phone or where your gadgets go," said Ma, the Greenpeace activist.
"When you think about changing [your phone], or buying a new product, always think about the footprint that you put on this planet."
You notice how all these jobs shout high-skilled and good wages but do you know where most of these manufacturing jobs are found? In the factories producing all of the components for these technologies and today that is the computer technology factories.
Siemens is known around the world as the worst of employers----slave labor in bad workplace conditions and here it is being brought to North Carolina----which is fast-becoming a Clinton neo-liberal haven. Republican or neo-liberal-----bringing global corporations back to the US to operate as they did overseas.
What a REAL progressive labor and justice Democrat would do is rebuild manufacturing factories of products
NEEDED BY EVERYONE FOR EVERYDAY LIFE THAT ARE NOT TOXIC. WE DO NOT NEED ALL OF THESE TECHNOLOGY AND MEDICAL PRODUCT-BASED FACTORIES.
This is why we need to reverse this moving of all information online-----all of this super-sized surveillance and spying-----all of this health care by remote online health tourism----it is unnecessary and it will make all of this technology manufacturing explode in the US.
The Southern states are first to load up with these sweat shop factories and the more toxic the better! Clinton neo-liberals are building once Democratic cities into these International Economic Zones with all of these job training for good jobs slogans while loading the economy with global corporations coming back to create Chinese work and environment conditions.
THIS IS WHAT YOUR BALTIMORE AND MARYLAND NEO-CONS AND NEO-LIBERALS ARE DOING FOR YOU AS THEY CLAIM TO BE REBUILDING MANUFACTURING JOBS THAT WILL BE GOOD PAYING MIDDLE-CLASS JOBS. FORGET THAT!
The high-skilled jobs that may pay OK for now are overwhelmingly being given to foreign workers who have no citizenship and can be exploited. If Trans Pacific Trade Pact is installed-----even those few safer skilled jobs will go to poverty.
Now Hiring: Siemens -- Manufacturing Jobs and Training
Lisa Johnson Mandell Apr 1st 2011 10:39AM 33690002
Thousands of manufacturing jobs in the energy field, and training programs to help you get them -- is it too good to be true? It appears the Siemens Corporation is making this dream a reality.
The international corporation is so eager to fill more than 3,000 open positions across the United States that it has launched a major employment campaign called "Where the Jobs Are." Each month, Siemens will highlight open positions in one of its business units and its academic collaborations to alert potential employees that job training is available for many of these high-skill, high-wage openings.
The first site featured is Charlotte, N.C., where the company has been working closely with local universities and community colleges to develop training programs and curricula for potential employees who want to work in the energy business. This is the real deal -- not only is the company hiring, but also it will train you at local schools to do the jobs.
Advancing the manufacturing technology skills of tomorrow, today. The Manufacturing Skills Institute (MSI) provides relevant education and skills training for careers in advanced manufacturing by offering world-class training programs delivered by MSI and MSI education partner institutions. Through the partnership between industry and education, employers set the skill standards for MSI program offerings anywhere offered to ensure learning is linked to employment and career advancement opportunities. Employer-specific customized training can be provided onsite or at any MSI education partner location. Working learners advance their manufacturing technology knowledge and skills via OJT classes, classroom-based and online training offered by MSI and education partner faculty grounded in real word experience.
Employers Innovation and technological advances are rapidly transforming US manufacturing. Production is being streamlined and processes automated. The skills required of “advanced” manufacturing workers have likewise evolved. Worker skills have not kept pace with the needs of the integrated factory. The resulting “skill gaps” have produced 600,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs nationally. The MSI helps companies to grow, attract and retain the workforce necessary to remain competitive in today’s competitive global marketplace.
Students and Working Learners From making jets fly to creating life-saving medicine, careers in advanced technology industries offer exceptional pay, opportunities for advancement and skills that can be transferred across multiple industries. Whether you are already employed, getting ready to leave the military, or looking for a career change, the advanced technology industries in the manufacturing sector have career opportunities waiting for you.
The MSI provides programs in advanced technology and automation aligned to manufacturers skills needs. Courses are taught by instructors with professional experiences in manufacturing to ensure knowledge and skill transfer from the classroom. The MSI’s advanced technology and automation programs put individuals on an immediate career pathway leading to employment and career advancement.
Below you see what placed Clinton neo-liberals and Bush neo-cons on steroids as regards these global trade agreements that seek to block any ability of nations tied to them to impose any regulations that take profit----and that is especially true of environmental devastation. Because the level of devastation in Asia and Africa has reached a tipping point----people in those countries can no longer even live there is so much contamination and with naked capitalism you cannot maximize profits if all of your human capital is sick and dying. This Basel agreement pushed in 1998 by global justice activists are right at the time Clinton was pushing global markets and breaking down American environmental agencies oversight and accountability with a goal of moving all of this mess back to the US.
'There is concern, however, that in the coming year, unscrupulous waste traders will dumped large amounts of hazardous waste for recycling before the 1998 deadline'.
When developers are allowed to build on land that is known to be toxic as they are doing in several sites around the US----San Francisco and Baltimore are only two-----you are seeing the stage set for openly exposing American citizens to the same environmental toxicity as in developing nations-----living and working exposed to the most toxic of waste.
MARYLAND GLOBAL CORPORATE POLS HAVE ALREADY ANNOUNCED THAT MARYLAND WILL BE AN INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL AND TECHNOLOGY ECONOMIC ZONE WHICH MEANS MARYLAND WILL LOOK LIKE CHINA IN JUST A FEW DECADES.....MARYLAND WORKERS AS WELL.
Uncontrolled industrial growth and toxic waste
All the waste spoken of below is coming home with TPP only is will be expanded with expanding technology economy! Look at how these environmental justice activists are calling for the same right to know laws that America has had for a century and that are being dismantled so as to allow the US to become as the developing nations. Notice as well it is the US military that is tops in this devastation just as militarized policing grows in the US.
This is a long article but please glance at what will come if we do not engage in politics now.
Cleaning Up Toxic Wastes in the Asia Pacific Region
by Jorge Emmanuel*
As stricter environmental laws and occupational safety standards made disposal of toxic and hazardous waste expensive in rich industrialised nations, waste generators and brokers have made developing countries (including Eastern and Central European countries) convenient dumping grounds for â€œthe effluent of the affluentâ€. The stories of toxic dumping show a callous disregard for human life and the environment. One of the most famous cases was the notorious Khian Sea, a barge that contained 13,500 tons of toxic incinerator ash from Philadelphia. From 1986 to 1988, the Khian Sea roamed the globe in search of a dumping ground. It tried but was unable to dump the waste in the Bahamas, the west coast of Africa, the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Singapore, but it did manage to dump 4,000 tons on Gonaives Beach in Haiti before it was stopped. Its remaining cargo was apparently dumped somewhere in Asia.
In 1991, four US companies based in South Carolina participated in a scheme to dump thousands of tons of toxic material contaminated with lead and cadmium in Bangladesh. About 1,000 tons of the toxic waste disguised as fertiliser had already been applied by farmers to their fields before this was exposed by Greenpeace. Although part of the penalties imposed by a US Court was used to take back the waste, no provisions were made to clean up toxic waste from farms in Bangladesh.
Perhaps the most deceptive form of dumping is â€œrecyclingâ€ waste in other countries. From 1990 to 1993, 5.3 million tons of waste were shipped from five developed countries (US, Canada, Japan, Australia, and Germany) to Asian countries of Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Thailand. These included not only household garbage and plastics that end up being buried somewhere, but also incinerator ash, lead-acid batteries, wastes containing other toxic metals, and medical waste.
Because safe disposal of lead can be costly and lead-acid battery recycling requires strong measures for occupational safety and stringent environmental controls, unscrupulous brokers have sent battery scrap to poorer countries with non-existent or unenforced occupational safety and environmental regulations. Thus, toxic levels of lead have ended up in soil, rivers, air. The Center for Investigative Reporting (San Francisco) revealed in 1990 that car batteries from the US were being sent to factories in Taiwan. Workers at the plants complained of health problems and were later found to be suffering from lead poisoning. It was reported that one of the factories dumped thousands of tons of waste in an open field and children at schools near both plants were found to have high levels of lead in their blood.
Reports of lead dumping abound, in Thailand, India, Mexico, Indonesia, and the back streets of Manila, among many others. Children living in the vicinity of Philippine Recyclers Inc. (PRI) in Marilao, Bulacan, have elevated lead levels in their blood, based on a recent study by Greenpeace and the University of the Philippines College of Public Health. PRI, a subsidiary of Ramcar Batteries of Commerce City, California, processed more than 4,000 tons of scrap batteries per month. Since 1991, the Philippines has imported more than 76,000 tons of lead-acid batteries; as pointed out by Von Hernandez of the Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaign, that is enough to fill 38,000 40-foot long container vans.
Lead enters the body by being inhaled or ingested. Even at very low concentrations, lead affects the nervous system, blood cells, kidneys, and reproductive system. Symptoms of chronic lead poisoning include vomiting, abdominal pain, stupor, and loss of muscular coordination. Lead can cross the placenta of pregnant women and damage the foetus. Lead has adverse effects on the development of children: very low levels in the blood can cause anaemia and brain damage. For children and adults, increasing lead levels result in mental loss (speech and writing problems, mental retardation) and eventually, irreversible brain damage.
The major countries exporting lead waste to developing countries are the United States, Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom.
Ratification of the Basel Convention
One approach for dealing with the toxic waste problem is preventing it in the first place. In recent years, many governments and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have worked on legal instruments proscribing the insidious practice of disposing toxic wastes in developing countries. Africa was a favourite dumping ground for many years. African countries (except Morocco) are now protected from the dumping of toxic cargo by the Bamako Convention. Mediterranean countries have developed the Regional Waste Trade Protocol under the Barcelona Convention. There is a similar Regional Agreement on Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes covering Central America. As other regions have clamped down on toxic dumping, Asia and the Pacific have become the most vulnerable region for dumping from industrialised countries.
The Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste was adopted in 1989. Despite strong pressure to weaken the Basel ban by several industrialised countries, especially the United States and Australia, and by waste trade industry representatives, the Basel ban prohibits the export for final disposal of hazardous waste to non-members of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) immediately. It will ban export of hazardous waste for the purpose of recycling in 1998. The Basel ban is legally binding on more than a hundred countries that are contracting parties to the convention. However, two-thirds of the parties (about sixty countries) must ratify the ban and incorporate it into their national laws in order for the ban to enter into force. The United States has been trying to find ways to circumvent the ban.
Notwithstanding the lengthy phase-out period pertaining to recycling of hazardous waste, the ban is an important international response to the danger of the toxic waste trade. There is concern, however, that in the coming year, unscrupulous waste traders will dumped large amounts of hazardous waste for recycling before the 1998 deadline. Pressure should be put to bear on countries to ratify the Basel ban, in particular, the United States â€” one of the industrialised countries most responsible for toxic dumping in developing countries and the only OECD country that is not a contracting party to the Convention.
NGOs could support organisations, notably the Greenpeace International Toxics Campaign, which investigate and document the toxic waste trade, monitor convention meetings and lobby to strengthen the Ban. APEC-member governments should be pressured to ratify the Basel Convention. Moreover, governments and NGOs should ensure that there is strict enforcement of the Ban. Closing the door on toxic waste dumping in the Asia-Pacific region may eventually force industrialised countries to minimise waste generation, reduce over-consumption, and â€œclose the loopâ€ domestically through local recycling industries.
Uncontrolled industrial growth and toxic waste
While stopping the import of hazardous waste into the region is one approach to preventing toxic contamination, minimising toxic wastes generated by industrialisation is another. Rapid growth in East Asia, fuelled largely by foreign investment and trade openness, has come at the expense of the environment. The largest dumping ground of hazardous waste is the air, as tons of toxic pollutants are emitted from cars and trucks as well as from coal-fired plants, chemical processing plants, cement factories, smelters, and other pollution-intensive industries. Major air pollutants include particulate matter, gases that form acid rain (oxides of sulfur and nitrogen), carbon monoxide, toxic metals, as well as numerous organic compounds. These pollutants are dispersed in the atmosphere and can travel across national boundaries and can be deposited back on the ground through rain. Some pollutants react in the atmosphere to form acid rain, photochemical smog, or other toxic compounds. The major long-term health and environmental effects of these pollutants are well established.
Surface water, such as rivers, streams, and the ocean, has long been a convenient dump for toxic waste â€” as a place for direct discharge of wastewater and sludge, ocean dumping, or the eventual recipient of pollutant-laden storm drainage, run-off, siltation, mining tailings, accidental spills, etc. Different toxic contaminants in the water can be transported by water flow to communities downstream, they can be adsorbed in sediment from which they can slowly be released for many years, or they could accumulate in marine life and enter the food chain. Toxic wastes have also been dumped on the ground. Depending on the chemical properties of the waste and the environmental conditions, toxic contaminants can evaporate and pollute the air, be taken up by plants and animals and eventually move up the food chain, be transported to other areas by run-off during rainy seasons, percolate through the soil and contaminate drinking water supplies, and/or simply stay on the soil.
Toxic contamination involves the release of toxic chemicals and their subsequent migration to different environmental media. The risk to health and the environment rises as one or more completed pathways of exposure to vegetation, animal, and human populations are completed. Toxic waste can adversely disrupt the ecosystem, overwhelming natural restorative processes, destroying habitats, killing off sensitive species, and markedly reducing bio-diversity. The human health effects from chronic (long-term), low- dose exposure to different toxic compounds range from disorders of the lungs, liver, kidneys, and other organs, to adverse effects on the immune, reproductive, or central nervous systems, as well as mutations of genes and a variety of cancers.
There are several approaches to minimising toxic waste. In the immediate term, polluting industries can be required to install end-of-the-pipe abatement technologies to remove pollutants before the effluent is released to the environment. For a particular industrial operation, the best available control technology or the highest level of emission control found worldwide can be identified and new operations can be made to meet those standards. For existing operations, an appropriate combination of penalties and incentives can be used to bring the rest of the industry to those higher standards. These technology-based standards can be supplemented by risk-based standards or standards based on the â€œwhole effluent toxicityâ€. It is also important to develop comprehensive strategies to eliminate loopholes that allow facilities to merely transfer pollutants from one environmental medium to another.
Another approach is to require industrial facilities to reduce the source of waste by implementing good operating practices including material handling improvements and inventory control to eliminate loss of material from expired shelf life or improper storage. Operational changes such as improved process control and adjustments in operational settings may also reduce toxic waste generation. Also important are possible product substitutions or changes in product composition to reduce toxicity or the amount of waste generated. Recycling is the use or reuse of materials from the waste stream or the recovery of materials from the waste stream as a product or for regeneration. Recycling programs can result in cost reductions in a facility.
For the longer term, investments in the region should place a high priority on implementing the highest clean production standards achievable worldwide. The US and Taipei sponsored â€œClean Production/Clean Technologyâ€ initiative may be a step in the right direction unless it becomes a way to sell energy-intensive or otherwise inappropriate technologies which could have other detrimental effects on local communities. These and other initiatives lack mechanisms for allowing the participation of NGOs and community groups who have a stake in clean production and clean technologies.
US militaryâ€™s toxic waste legacy
Most people associate toxic waste solely with industry. However, military facilities and operations also generate large quantities of hazardous waste from production, testing, cleaning, maintenance, and use of weapons, explosives, aircraft, naval vessels, land transport, etc. as well as storage and distribution of petroleum, oil, and lubricants (POL). Toxic solvents, oils, greases, corrosives, fuels, heavy metals, PCBs, dioxins, unexploded ordnance, and radioactive material are some of the hazardous wastes emitted or discharged directly into soil, air, or water by the military.
For decades, the US Department of Defence was one of the worst violators of US environmental laws. As a result, there are over 22,000 contaminated sites in 3,300 active and former military installations in the United States. Many of these are included in the so-called â€˜Superfundâ€™ list of the most contaminated and dangerous sites. This problem extends to overseas US bases including bases in Asia and the Pacific.
A case in point is Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. For decades, the US military simply dumped toxic waste on the ground. Unfortunately, Anderson sits directly above the major aquifer which is the primary source of drinking water for three-fourths of the population. In one US government report, the levels of trichloroethylene in the groundwater were several times higher than US federal government limits. Trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent used extensively by the military, is a suspected carcinogen and can also damage the liver and kidneys.
Many of you may recall the disastrous Pinatubo volcanic eruption in 1991, ending nearly a century of military operations at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. More than a year later, a refugee center was opened in a place called CABCOM (standing for Clark Air Base Command) to house 17,000 families displaced by Pinatubo. In 1994, families began complaining of gastrointestinal disorders and skin rashes which they believed were linked to their use of water from some wells that had been dug up at CABCOM. The refugee site is situated on what was once a major motorpool and vehicle maintenance area of the former US military base. Since this area was a former US base and lacking financial and technical resources, then Secretary of Health Dr Jaime Tan wrote a letter in 1995 to his US counterparts, specifically the Centers for Disease Control, asking for assistance to test the drinking water wells. The response took several months. The State Department, which apparently had to approve such assistance, placed the condition that the Philippine government, with its limited resources, had to pay for any assistance.
The US government has failed to do what is right and just, and to accept responsibility for the toxic legacy of its former bases in another country. The US left behind about two dozen major and minor facilities throughout the Philippines. In 1992, after the withdrawal from Clark, the US was forced to withdraw from Subic Naval Base when the Philippine Senate rejected a treaty that would have extended its lease. Subic, the largest US naval base outside the US, was described by David Berteau, then principal deputy secretary of defence, as a toxic â€œhorror storyâ€ in a 1990 Los Angeles Times interview. Before the US withdrew from the Philippines, the Pentagon conducted a preliminary and incomplete environmental assessment documenting some two dozen sites at Subic and a dozen at Clark as areas potentially requiring clean-up because of past dumping of hazardous waste, leaking underground storage tanks, toxic spills and other environmentally destructive practices. Those reports were given to the Philippines government only two years ago due to pressure from US and Philippine NGOs and some government officials.
President Clinton visited the Philippines in November 1994. At a joint press conference, both presidents were asked about the military toxics issue. President Clinton denied there was any evidence of environmental problems despite the fact that much of the evidence to the contrary came from US General Accounting Office and Department of Defence documents.
Following the Manila Peopleâ€™s Forum on APEC, an International Forum on Military Toxics and Bases Clean-up will take place in the Philippines from November 24 to 26, during which representatives from various countries will share information and co-ordinate activities to pressure the United States to take responsibility for its toxic and hazardous wastes in overseas military bases. The forum is being convened by the Peopleâ€™s Task Force on Bases Clean-up, Nuclear Free Philippines Coalition, and the US-based Working Group for Philippine Bases Clean-up. NGOs can support this international campaign and a proposed resolution being presented by those organisations to the Manila Peopleâ€™s Forum calling on the US to meet its environmental responsibility. Since naval bases like Subic have polluted the ocean, clean of military toxics should be an immediate activity under the US government-sponsored â€œClean Pacificâ€ initiative proposed for APEC.
The clean-up process
The clean-up process entails several stages. The process usually starts with the discovery of a contaminated site. This is followed by a preliminary investigation which includes a review of historical records (which may reveal past dumping practices, accidental spills, etc.), interviews of current and past employees as well as neighbouring residents, and a visual inspection. The preliminary investigation determines whether an in-depth study should be conducted. If so, a detailed site characterisation is needed to establish the nature and extent of contamination. This information is used to select the best clean-up technology or technologies to employ, and in some cases, to evaluate the risk and determine clean-up priorities. The clean-up system is then designed and installed. Since certain clean-up activities (such as restoring groundwater) can take years to complete, long-term monitoring may be necessary. Anytime during the study process, emergency clean-up activities may be needed to eliminate or mitigate imminent threats to human health and the environment.
Issues related to toxic waste clean-up
The clean of hazardous waste and toxic contamination can be an expensive process. Numerous environmental samples may have to be obtained and costly chemical analyses conducted to determine the extent of contamination. Some clean-up technologies have large capital costs. Who pays for the clean-up? A basic environmental principle is that the polluter must pay and an environmental justice principle affirms that poor communities should not bear the burden for environmental destruction caused by others. Some countries have laws that clearly establish liability for clean-up of toxic waste. But what happens if the polluter is outside the countryâ€™s jurisdiction? How can companies in South Carolina be compelled to pay for the clean-up of their toxic waste in Bangladesh? Or can the United States military be forced to pay for the clean-up of its toxic legacy at overseas bases?
Another issue is clean-up standards. Environmental regulations in many Asia-Pacific countries may not be able to provide guidance on the clean-up process or the level of clean-up (how clean is clean). Who will determine these levels and how will they be defined? An overriding problem may be the lack of technical capacity in developing countries. This could include a lack of essential laboratory equipment, calibration standards, quality control and quality assurance procedures, or experience with clean-up technologies. Some technologies can completely destroy toxic waste, others (for example, standard pump-and-treat with carbon adsorption) merely concentrate and collect toxic contaminants in filters, while others produce toxic by-products (for example, incineration). Because toxic waste clean-up always carries the risk of toxic exposure, occupational safety and health training for clean-up workers is needed, such as in the use of personal protective equipment and decontamination procedures. Many countries have not yet developed such measures.
A vital component of clean-up is independent oversight and community participation. In the United States, this aspect of clean-up is formalised in advisory boards for the clean-up of military bases and weapons production facilities. The experience of advisory boards is uneven across the country, ranging from military bases that manipulate and use advisory boards to put a veneer of public approval on their activities to facilities that work effectively with citizens groups and provide genuine participation. An essential feature of this â€advisory boardâ€ model is government funding of technical consultants to represent the interests of the community in the independent review process. This begins to level the playing field as the communityâ€™s consultant reviews highly technical data and empowers the community with an understanding of the information.
Some ideas for NGOs and community groups
NGOs and communities need accurate information in order to act. Some countries have promulgated right-to-know legislation based on the principle that workers and communities have a right to know whether or not they are exposed to environmental hazards. Under right-to-know laws, industrial plants can be compelled to quantify and release information regarding their generation and emission of toxic waste. The laws also require plants to report any accidental releases of hazardous waste to the environment. Worker right-to-know laws require employers to make available to their employees toxic, explosive, and fire hazard information regarding chemicals that workers are handling. These right-to-know laws can be useful tools for labour and environmental activists in protecting workers and communities from toxic contamination. Furthermore, the information can be used to galvanise communities to pressure local plants to clean up their acts.
The right of communities to participate in making decisions that affect their health and environment is another important principle. The US has applied this concept in its guidance documents on military base clean-up. NGOs and community groups in the region could work collectively to gain greater governmental acceptance of both the right to know and the right to community participation. The Kyoto Declarationâ€™s call for effective public participatory decision-making, transparency, and effective monitoring of all aspects of trade investment can also be applied to the clean-up of toxic waste.
In order to clean up toxic waste, building technical capacity may be a prerequisite especially among developing countries. NGOs can help in this process by encouraging their local scientific and academic communities to take interest in the toxic waste problem, educating a new generation of scientists and engineers committed to reducing toxic pollution and cleaning up toxic waste. Collaborative efforts between professional societies and among scientific organisations from different countries could foster technical exchanges of information such as new and emerging environmental technologies, clean production standards, best available control technologies, data on health and ecological effects of toxic substances, etc. Scientists working with NGOs can help transfer that information to communities in a manner that is understandable and empowering.
In general, there should be greater sharing of information and experience among NGOs and community groups in the region concerned with the toxic waste issue. This exchange could take place in conjunction with conferences such as this or on an ongoing basis through electronic mail and other forms of communication.
The author appreciates updates on the toxic waste trade provided by Marcelo Furtado (Washington, DC) and Von Hernandez (Manila) of Greenpeace.
* Jorge Emmanuel works with the US Working Group for Philippine Bases Clean-up, ARC Ecology, Urban Habitat, and Fellowship of Reconciliation's Latin America and Caribbean Task Force on domestic and international military bases clean and conversion, along with partners in the Philippines and Panama.