Chinese woman smelts computer parts in the open air.

While writing a feature on pollution from Chinese e-waste yards, Kevin, from our science unit, sent me some links to scientific papers on the e-waste pollution. Normally these are quite dense but a couple of things jumped out from reading this study:

Electronics-dismantling laborers in China are taking up very high concentrations of heavy polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants. One worker had by far the highest concentration (3100 parts per billion) ever reported.

That's means workers are exposed to massive amounts of this toxic chemical that also accumulates in the environment. Then the people who make this toxic chemical (European Brominated Flame Retardant Industry Panel) have the nerve to reply to the startling research with lines like: "just emphasizes the need for industrial hygiene". Of course if only they'd worn gloves it would have been fine, just skirt around the fact that these toxic chemicals persist and spread in the environment.

Probably similar to the lines chemical manufactures used when Silent Spring came out. These newer toxic chemicals are turning up in people, polar bears and whales and probably slowly poisoning them. But just like 40 years ago it seems some chemical companies remain happy to profit from producing poisons. Never mind if scientific studies show problems with your chemical, that must be someone else's fault.