The escalating global consumption of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) has triggered a massive E-waste crisis, as reported by UNICEF and the World Health Organization in October 2022. In 2019 alone, the world generated a staggering 53.6 million tonnes of E-waste, with projections estimating a surge to 74.7 million tonnes by 2030. Shockingly, only 17.4% of this E-waste underwent proper recycling, exacerbating environmental and health risks, especially for children.
Children and adolescents, numbering up to 18 million, are toiling in the informal sector, with approximately 13 million women also engaged in such work. These informal E-waste workers, including children, face severe risks. The escalating E-waste problem is predicted to lead to a 70% increase in the global waste management workforce by 2030, adding another 45 million people, placing even more children to fall into this lifestyle.
Children’s bodies and brains are uniquely susceptible to the toxicants present in E-waste, making them vulnerable to numerous health issues, including impaired neurodevelopment, respiratory problems, immune system dysfunction, DNA damage, and heightened risks of chronic illnesses. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the issue, potentially pushing an additional 9 million children into child labour by the end of 2022, bringing the total to 46 million if adequate social protection measures are not implemented.
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