Occupational Health Hazards of E-Wastes: An Awareness Campaign at the Alaba International Market, Lagos, Nigeria
Electronic-wastes (E-Wastes) have been a major menace both as an occupational hazard and as source of pollution to landfills in Nigeria. Advanced economies use most African countries as dumping grounds for damaged and out-dated electronic and mechatronic machines such as personal and desktop computers, televisions, radios, pressing irons, vacuum cleaners, motor bikes, etc. All these and more constitute E-wastes.
E-wastes serve as a rich source of toxic metals and other hazardous chemicals that are detrimental to the wellbeing of humans and animals in general. These toxic metals and chemicals are inhaled if handled without caution. These chemicals also find their way to underground water where they contaminate drinking water making it not potable for human consumption. However, due to lack of awareness, people consume these toxic chemicals in water. They bio-accumulate and cause varied chronic disease conditions, most of which are often times misdiagnosed by physicians, who most of the times are oblivious of the effects these chemicals can have.
As scientists and toxicologists, it is our duty to educate the public on toxicological issues that affect them. This informed our decision to hold an awareness campaign on the health hazards of E-wastes. We decided to bring this campaign to those who are at most risk and are exposed on an occupational level. To this effect, a town hall meeting was held at the well-known Alaba International market in Lagos State, Nigeria. The electronic market is said to be the largest in Africa. Initially, we had series of meetings with the market executives for permission to carry out our awareness campaign. A large number of the market dealers who deal on E-wastes were in attendance, where the meaning and the concept of E-waste were elucidated. Although some of them claimed to have prior knowledge of these, but on further discussions we realized that a lot were yet to be known. We also discussed on the occupational hazards associated with handling E-wastes. We pointed out various activities they engage in that expose them to toxic chemicals. Various medical conditions that may arise as a result of unprotected exposures to E-waste were also discussed. We concluded by enlightening them on ways to minimize exposures as well as the importance of personal protective equipment. Some dietary supplements were also suggested to them in order to help minimize the bioaccumulation of the toxic chemicals they are exposed to. Several questions came up, most of which were majorly on their health concerns. Most complained of tiredness, yellowing of the sclera, headaches, coughs, rashes, etc. They pointed out that these signs and symptoms were noticed only when they got involved with E-wastes. These issues were clarified to their satisfaction and some of them were referred for medical check-up.
In all, this awareness campaign proved to be useful to both parties. As scientists, we were fulfilled to have brought our knowledge home to where it matters. To the E-waste dealers, they were equipped with the right arsenals to work in order to make a living. We cannot tell for how long the dumping of E-wastes from advanced countries will continue, but for as long as it exists, we will continue to bring updated and directed awareness to all that are concerned for healthier living.
Date: Feb 5, 2017
5th February 2017