RESEARCH GROUP ON MANAGEMENT AND CONTROL OF E-WASTE-BASED ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION

RESEARCH GROUP ON MANAGEMENT AND CONTROL OF E-WASTE-BASED ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION
 
CONCEPT NOTE
 
Background
The air constitutes 80% of man’s daily in-take by weight. Man breathes 22,000 times a day, inhaling 16 kg of air. Hence, the purity of air is crucial to healthy living.  Impure air contains one or more contaminants (such as fumes, dust, gases, mist, grit, odour, smoke, smog or vapours) in considerable quantities and of duration which is injurious to life (human, animal or plant) or which unreasonably inerferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property (Sharma, 2002).
In-door air pollution takes place when the air of man’s living or office enclosure is polluted by foreign elements from natural or man-made sources in such concentrations sufficient to cause serious effects on his health. When the rate of pollution exceeds the self-purifying capacity of Nature, accumulation of pollutants occurs causing severe public health problems (Sharma, 2002).
Waste is not just a useless living or dead material, but may be hazardous by containing substance(s) injurious or fatal to life form(s). Nurudeen (2011) submitted that some wastes are ingnitable, corrosive, explosive or highly reactive. It follows that they are precursors of environmental mishaps, degradation and pollution that may have health and economic significance and consequences. Hence, the danger in handling wastes with kid-gloves may degenerate to a murderous or suicidal dimension.
Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) or electronic waste (e-waste) or electronic garbage (e-garbage) refers to wastes from electrical and electronic materials (Nurudeen, 2011). It includes unwanted, obsolete or unusable electrical and electronic products, such as computers, computer peripherals, televisions, VCRs, DVD players, stereo equipment, cell phones, microwave ovens, grammophones, ear phones, microphones, pendulum clocks, wrist watches, analogue telephone sets, pressing irons, among others (Aginam, 2010).
The more people become dependent on electrical and electronic products to make life more convenient, the more WEEE is generated, moreso, with factors, such as rapid technological change, low initial cost, and planned obsolescence, gaining more grounds.  In the year 2004, 183 million computers and 674 million mobile phones were sold worldwide. In developed countries, the average lifespan of computers dropped from 6 to 2 years in 2005, and mobile phones have lifecycle of 2 years. Hence, a fastest growing solid waste in the world is e-waste (growing at 40 million tons per annum) (Nurudeen, 2011).
Developing countries in Africa are rightly encouraging massive importation of information communications technology (ICT) facilities, which drive development in the digital information age. The 2006 global e-readiness rankings of countries by the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked South Africa 35th, Egypt 55th, Nigeria 60th and Algeria 63rd, showing that African countries are waking up to the broadband race (Gomez et al., 2009). Major countries exporting ICT equipment to Nigeria include European Union (EU) – 45%; United States of America (USA) – 45%, and the remaining 10% comes from Japan, Italy, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, and Singapore (Aginam, 2010).
Statement of the problem
Sequel to high demands, hundreds of containers of used personal computers (PCs), electronic gadgets (e-gadgets) and accessories are shipped to Africa, especially Nigeria, which constitutes one-fifth of Africa’s population and consumers, with mobile consumption habits and throw-away mentality. The demand for inferior, near-end-of-life, second-hand quality ICT products is predicated on very high level of poverty of citizens of these countries, who cannot afford superior ICT facilities.  Thirty-two (32) African countries belong to low income countries (LICs) with $785 or less per capita income, 14 belong to the low middle income countries (LMCs) with per capita income range of $786-$3,115, and only 6 belong to the upper middle income countries (UMCs) with per capita income range of $3,116-$9,636 (AfDB, 2007). Nkamnebe et al. (2009) and Carroll (2006) reported that as a result of poverty and low level of development in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), the consumption of ICT in the region is concentrated on the inferior and used components, which have become ubiquitous in the region. Virtually all the used ICT components that escape recycling and incineration in the developed countries find their final resting place in SSA.
In spite of inadequate environmental regulations and waste treatment capacity, ICT is fast being integrated in developing countries. The attendant e-wastes being increasingly generated pose environmental and health hazards with obvious environmental sustainability challenges.  Concerned over the issue, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), early 2010, advocated proper e-waste management in order to protect environment and public health and build new green economy (Eneh, 2012a).
WEEE contain hazardous substances, hence their disposal is a growing global challenge (Aginam, 2010).  One personal computer (PC) may contain 700 different chemical compounds, including toxic metals (mercury, lead, gallium, germanium, nickel, palladium, selenium, beryllium, and arsenic) (Nurudeen, 2011).  Despite the global effort, by way of the Switzerland 1989 Bazel Convention, prohibiting trans-Atlantic international waste transfer, the developed nations take advantage of poverty, lower environmental standards and working conditions to send WEEE (as second-hand electronic products or e-products) to developing countries, making the latter extended e-waste dumps (Aginam, 2010).
In the 1990s, the European Union, Japan and United States of America set up e-wastes recycling systems to accommodate remains of electronic equipment and to avoid their poor handling or burning (Nurudeen, 2011). Landfilling and incineration are discouraged as means of WEEE disposal because of the associated soil/food and water contamination and air pollution.  The ‘WEEE Man’ (a huge robot designed in London by Paul Bonomini and produced in New York, USA) represents the average amount of e-waste products an individual throws away in a lifetime. The project was aimed at transforming public perception from “out of sight, out of mind” to behaviour change, thought-provoking e-waste reduction, raising the profile of recycling industry (Aginam, 2010). In Nigeria, the Nigerian National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) is collaborating with the Consumer Protection Council (CPC),  the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON), and the Alaba International Market Amalgamated Traders Association (AIMATA) to check cases of sub-standard quality, counterfeiting and dumping of near-end-of-life and end-of-life electrical and electronic appliances into Nigeria (Aginam, 2010).
Studies (Eneh, 2012b) revealed that most homes and offices in Nigeria harbour WEEE, such as obsolete gramophone, pendulum clock, analogue telephone set, and pressing iron, most of which are dysfunctional and/or out-of-use. Others are unserviceable radio set, cassette player set, black-and-white television set, blender, microwave oven, rechargeable lantern, refrigerator, handset, among others. According to Eneh (2011) and Eneh and Agunwamba (2011), these items emit hazardous gases of lead, beryllium oxide and other toxic chemical components that pollute in-door air with the attendant deleterious environmental health effects on home dwellers and workers. The acute toxicity (rat, oral) values (1,600 mg kg-1 and 400 mg kg-1) obtained (Eneh, 2012 a, b) for crude beryllium oxide-extract and lead-extract from e-waste materials respectively signaled a cause for urgent intervention because the latter was lower, and therefore more toxic, than the reported lowest toxic dose (oral) of 790 mg/kg for lead.
Two of the world’s worst pollution problems in 2008 were in-door air pollution and urban air quality, of which emission is a factor (Blacksmith Institute, 2008). World Health Product (2010) reported that the primary cause of lead poisoning in adults is inhalation of lead emission.
The presence of WEEE in homes and offices means increased chances of inhalation of lead emission, absorption of the critical 0.5 mg/day, and the attendant lead accumulation and toxicity (chronic poisoning) among home dwellers and workers. People will be easily predisposed to lowest observed adverse effect level (LOAEL) of 0.03 mg/m3 (by inhalation), lowest toxic concentration (0.1 mg/m3 by inhalation) of lead in humans, the workplace standard permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 0.5 mg/m3, the recommended exposure limit (REL) time weighed average (TWA) of 1 mg/m3, threshold limit value – time weighed average (TLV-TWA) of 1.5 mg/m3, the acceptable daily in-take (ADI) and other guideline levels, such as provisional maximum tolerable weekly in-take of lead (3 mg per person or 0.5 mgkg-1 body weight for adults and 0.25 mgkg-1 body weight for children), and the resultant toxicity, health inconveniences and expenses, as well as possible mortality.
Symptoms of chronic lead poisoning – abdominal discomfort, irritability, lethargy, mild fatigue, myalgia, and paresthesia – are common among Nigerians, whose lifespan is alreday short at 51.9 years (UNDP, 2012). The matter is made worse by constant exposure to lead emissions from WEEE kept in homes and offices, which continually pollute the in-door air in both dwelling and workplaces. Therefore, pollution-related emission of toxic chemical components of WEEE has a serious environmental health consequence, as out-of-use electronic products are left in homes and offices in Nigeria.
In a report (Eneh, 2014), electronic products handlers in the market and repair shops were proved to be ignorant of WEEE toxicity. This ignorance needs to be proved in household members and office users. As the studies (Eneh, 2011; Eneh and Agunwamba, 2011; Eneh, 2012 a, b) recommended, there is the imperative need for intervention with environmental management and control policies and actions against in-door air pollution by toxic WEEE in homes and offices.
Pokras and Kneeland (2008) observed that lead poisoning is entirely preventable by, among others, avoiding exposure to lead. One way to reduce in-door air pollution of homes and offices is persuasion of home dwellers and office users/owners to do away with out-of-use electronic products from their residences and workplaces. So far, there is no report on a project aimed at educating the public on WEEE toxicity, addressing their suicidal habit of keeping toxic WEEE in homes and offices, and transforming public perception to warrant behaviour change and thought-provoking reduction of end-of-life electrical and electronic appliances in households and offices in Nigeria.
Project aim and objectives
The purpose of this project is to minimize the health inconveniences, expenses and life tolls attendant upon indoor air pollution based on accumulation of toxic out-of-use electrical and electronic products kept in homes and offices in Nigeria. The specific objectives are to:
1. Establish the ignorance of WEEE toxicity among home dwellers and office users/owners;
2. Establish the habit of keeping out-of-use electronic products among home dwellers and office users/owners;
3. Mount persuassive campaigns to get home dwellers and office users/owners to dispose of out-of-use electronic products, and to establish the effectiveness of the campaign by conducting a post-campaign survey to ascertain that:
(3a) home dwellers and office users/owners gained knowledge of WEEE toxicity,
(3b) home dwellers and office users/owners change from the behaviour of keeping out-of-use electronic products in homes and offices to that of discarding them, and
(3c) there is a reduction of out-of-use electronic products in homes and offices.
The hypotheses to guide the project are:
Ho1: Home dwellers and office users/owners are not ignorant of WEEE toxicity.
Ho2: Home dwellers and office users/owners do not have the habit of keeping out-of-use electronic products in homes and offices.
Ho3: Home dwellers and office users/owners will not gain significant knowledge of WEEE toxicity during a public enlightenment campaign programme.
Ho4: After a public enlightenment campaign, home dwellers and office users/owners will not change behaviour from keeping out-of-use electronic products in homes and offices to discarding them.
Ho5: There will be no significant reduction of out-of-use electronic products in homes and offices in Nigeria, even after mounting a public enlightenment campaign programme.
Significance of the project
Nigerians will benefit from this project in various ways, including:
1. Homes and offices will be decongested of out-of-use toxic electronic products;
2. In-door air pollution arising from emissions of toxic chemical components of out-of-use electronic products in homes and offices will be reduced;
3. Life tolls from the attendant in-door air pollution of homes and offices will be minimised;
4. Lifespan shortening by in-door air pollution of homes and offices will be reduced;
5. Inconveniences from ill-health arising from in-door air pollution of homes and offices will be minimised;
6. Expenditures on ill-health arising from in-door air pollution of homes and offices will be saved;
7. Environmental policy-makers will employ the project outcome in updating policies for greener homes and Nigerian nation;
8. The study results will be adopted for in-door air pollution control in other parts of Nigeria and in other African countries.
Researchers will find the empirical study very useful and as basis for further work. Electrical and electronic products manufacturing companies will benefit from the project, which will enhance their recovery of out-of-use electronic products.
COMPOSITION OF THE RESEARCH GROUP ON
MANAGEMENT AND CONTROL OF E-WASTE-BASED ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION
 
S.N. Name Rank Affiliation Department/Inst./Centre and Contact Remark
1. Dr. O.C. Eneh Snr. Res. Fellow/Lecturer Univ. of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) Inst. for Dev. Studies (IDS). Mobile: +234-803-338-7472.
E-mail: onyenekenwa.eneh@unn.edu.ng P.I.
2. Prof. J.C. Agunwamba Prof. of Environmental Engineering U.N.N.  Dept. of Civil Engineering. Tel: +234-8035644561
E-mail: nwambaagu@yahoo.com
Member
3. Prof. J.U.J. Onwumere Prof. of Banking/Finance and Economics U.N.N. Dept. of Banking and Finance Member
4. Prof. P.A. Akah Prof. of Toxicol/Pharmacol U.N.N  Dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology Member
6. Prof. C.H. Mba Prof. of Urban and Regional Planning U.N.N Centre for Envir. Management and Control (CEMAC) Member
6. Dr. H.I. Eze Snr. Lecturer U.N.N. CEMAC Member
7. Mr. E.B. Ogbuene Lecturer I U.N.N. CEMAC Member
8. Mr. C.C. Eze Lecturer I U.N.N. IDS Member