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Our electronics don’t have to land in an African slum.

The world is awash in electronic waste. With an ever-expanding market for electronic goods and continually shrinking product lifecycles, managing e-waste has become a global problem. In addition to the growing volumes of discarded computers, monitors, laptops, cellphones and other electronics in our landfills, e-waste often finds its way (by container ships) from places like Canada to places like Agbogbloshie, Ghana.

In Agbogbloshie, e-waste is gold. Literally. Precious metals removed from circuit boards become a source of income for many in the informal recycling trade. But the methods used to extract these valuable materials – including open-pit burning and acid baths – are crude. Workers are exposed to a toxic mix of heavy metals, brominated flameretardants and a particularly carcinogenic class of chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Many e-waste collectors suffer a range of health effects from injuries to premature death, while nearby communities face serious chronic disease and longterm environmental degradation.

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