Chapter 1 - Magnitude of the Global E-Waste Problem

Elsevier, Electronic Waste, Toxicology and Public Health Issues, 2017, Pages 1-15
Bruce A .Fowler

The growing public health problem of how to effectively deal with or dispose of the ever-increasing number of old or outdated electronic devices (e-waste) in a safe manner is complex on a number of levels. Complicating factors range from the sheer numbers of these devices, which have been produced over the past 50 years, to the international nature of recycling activities involving both developed and developing countries and the lack of toxicological information on many of the materials (e.g., nanomaterials) used in these still-evolving devices on an individual and mixture exposure basis. This introductory chapter will attempt to introduce the subissues related to the e-waste problem via an overview of the problem followed by an examination of these subissues, which will be addressed in more detail in the subsequent chapters of this book. It is hoped that such information will be of value to scientists, engineers, risk assessors, and societal decision-makers so that wise and informed decisions may be made for the handling of e-waste in a safe and effective manner to protect the public health. Global public health problems of electronic waste (outdated computers, monitors, printers, televisions, stoves, refrigerators, etc.) have evolved over the past 50–60 years and are accelerating as electronic devices are increasingly used for a variety of purposes in both developed and developing countries. The useful lifetime of these devices is also decreasing as newer and faster devices with more capabilities are developed and purchased.