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Posted Fri Dec 4 2009: from Der Spiegel:
How Europe's Discarded Computers Are Poisoning Africa's Kids
People in the West throw away millions of old computers every year. Hundreds of thousands of them end up in Africa, where children try to eke out a living by selling the scrap. But the toxic elements in the waste are slowly poisoning them.... Acrid, black smoke drifts over the huts of the slum. The river, too, is black and thick like used oil, as it carries empty computer cases toward the ocean. Fires are blazing on the bank across the way, fueled by foam and slivers of plastic. Their flames consume the plastic material from cables, plugs and motherboards, leaving behind only metal. There's a wind today, blowing the smoke from these infernal fires low across the ground. Breathing in too deeply is painful to the lungs, and the people tending the fires are sometimes nothing more than vague, foggy silhouettes.... Fourteen years old but small for his age, Bismarck scours the ground for anything the older boys might have left behind after burning a batch of computers. It might be bits of copper cable, the motor from a hard drive, or leftover pieces of aluminum. The magnets in his speaker also pick up screws or steel plugs. Bismarck drops everything he finds into his bag. Once the bag is half full, he can sell the metal and buy some rice, maybe a tomato too, or even a chicken drumstick grilled over a refurbished car wheel rim. But today, the boy says, he still hasn't found enough, and he disappears again into the smoke.
[Read more stories about: airborne pollutants, electronic waste, lived experience]

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