WHO reports on e-waste and child health

22 June 2021

Article: 55/2509

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published its first report on e-waste and child health, finding that effective action is required to protect millions of children, adolescents and expectant mothers worldwide, whose health may be jeopardised by the informal processing of discarded electrical or electronic devices. Workers aiming to recover valuable materials, such as copper and gold, are at risk of exposure to over 1,000 harmful substances, including lead, mercury, nickel, brominated flame retardants and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

The WHO estimate that more than 18 million children and adolescents, some as young as five years of age, are actively engaged in the informal industrial sector, of which waste processing is a sub-sector. Other children live, go to school and play near e-waste recycling centres, where high levels of toxic chemicals, mostly lead and mercury, may be found.

Source: WHO, 15 June 2021