Ringing in heaps of trouble

Published: Saturday 15 June 2002

Radiation from cellular phones is a well-known risk. Now there is another type of pollution from the wireless device which has raised a wave of worry. A study conducted by Inform, an environmental research organisation, says that within three years the us will discard about 130 million cellular telephones a year. This would translate into 65,000 tonnes of trash, including toxic metals which affect health.

A us citizen on an average keeps a cellphone for only 18 months. By 2005, there will be 200 million cellphones in use across the us and another 500 million older phones may be stockpiled in drawers and closets to be thrown away, the document estimates. The discarded phones pose problems when they are dumped at landfills or burned. They have toxins in batteries and other components including arsenic, antimony, beryllium, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel and zinc. These toxins accumulate in the environment and are associated with cancer and neurological disorders, especially in children.

The report suggests that there should be more take-back programmes so phones and batteries can be recycled and companies should adopt industry-wide technologies and design standards so that phones are not discarded after a user switches services.

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