Electronic waste threatens water, fish and the country’s health

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    The aquifers, fish and people of Costa Rica are exposed to contamination by heavy metals released by technological garbage.

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    If these computers, cell phones, batteries, photocopiers, televisions and appliances are not recycled or treated properly, they can release substances such as chromium, lead, mercury, nickel and cobalt.

    David Benavides, coordinator of the technical module of the Sustainable Field Program at Universidad Nacional (UNA), warned that these metals can reach aquifers.

    Also, if the devices are dumped near rivers they can reach the sea and can contaminate fish.

    In high amounts, these substances can cause nausea, vomiting, respiratory problems and effects on the skin.

    In addition, some are associated with cancers.

    The risk is greater when considering the amount of obsolete equipment in the country.

    In the past 11 years Costa Rica has accumulated some 13,500 tonnes of waste technology, mostly in the form of computers and cellular telephones.

    Yamileth Astorga, Coordinator of Integrated Environmental Management Programme (Progai) of the University of Costa Rica (UCR), said that figure is based on the amount of electronic products entering Costa Rica, and in considering their life.

    The official said most of those products go to landfills where they receive no special treatment.

    To David Benavides, copiers, phones and monitors are the most polluting equipment, due to their constituents.

    María Luisa Ávila, Minister of Health, said the Waste Act, adopted last Tuesday, is forcing the manufacturers to create spaces for customers to bring technology products that would normally become trash.

    Martha Castillo, vice president of the Chamber of Industries, said he “applauded” the law because the priority is to conserve the environment.

    According to Rocio Vasquez, general manager of Grupo Monge,  (Play, Importer Monge, El Verdugo and more Gallo El Gallo) have spaces dedicated to store the waste they receive. Even now they are getting old televisions and taking them as partial payment for a new one.

    Elbert Duran, spokesman for the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), said that users can take old phones to any ICE office and they will send them to a recycling company.

    Translation and editing by TCRN staff

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