By Nelson Flores, LlB., MSCK
THE EcoWaste Coalition, an environment and public health watchdog in the Philippines, urged the public to properly dispose in recycling centers cathode ray tube monitors for computers and old television sets, and other electronic devices saying these items pose environment and health hazards if just left on the streets or thrown into waste dumps.
The coalition issued the appeal after its members found discarded CRTs on the sidewalks and street dumps in the cities of Makati and Manila.
“CRTs are laden with huge amounts of lead and other hazardous chemicals. If handled and disposed of without care, the glass panel, which is lined with lead, will break and contaminate the surroundings,” said Primo Morillo, EcoWaste Coalition E-Waste campaigner.
Aside from lead, CRTs contain other chemicals of concern like antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, mercury, nickel phosphor, and rare earth metals, which could pollute the environment and consequently pose health hazards to the public.
Lead, in particular, is a cumulative toxicant that can damage the nervous, blood, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, renal and reproductive systems in humans, and is considered one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” by the World Health Organization.
“Careless handling and disposal will cause the lead and other toxic components of CRT to be released out of the tube, polluting the air, water and soil. This is why we cannot simply throw CRTs on the side of the road. Like any other electronic waste, or e-waste, CRTs must be managed in an environmentally sound manner,” Morillo said.
He further explained that even the plastic casings of old TVs contain highly toxic chemicals.
“CRTs form part of the country’s growing e-waste containing extremely toxic substances such as the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) on CRTs’ plastic casings. PBDEs, which are used as flame retardants in electric and electronic equipment, are among the newly listed chemicals targeted for global elimination under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) of which the Philippines is a state party.”
“To prevent their hazardous contents from polluting the air that we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat, we need to keep CRTs and other e-waste safely handled, stored, recycled, or disposed of,” Morillo said.
“Breaking, dismantling and recycling CRTs in uncontrolled conditions, and causing their disposal on the streets, creeks, dumps and landfills are dangerous for waste workers and communities, and is, in fact, illegal,” he added.
Meanwhile, the government, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, is undertaking a project that will ensure the safe disposal through encapsulation of some 225 tons of leaded glass panels from about 50,000 CRT monitors.
Supported by the Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, the said project seeks the safe management of some 1.15 tons of PBDEs in CRTs, as well as 600 tons of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) oil and PCB-contaminated electric transformers.
“To curb pollution and protect human health, we need to improve public awareness of the negative impacts of the unsafe disposal of e-waste and support policies and programs towards the environmentally sound management of this growing waste stream,” Morillo said.