Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ever since I have been reading Garbage Land, I not only think differently about throwing things away, I actually "think" about what I am throwing away. My ten-year-old son asked me the other day,"Mommy, what will we do when all the trash takes over the world?" Realizing that as a consumer, I am part of this problem, I guiltily thought to myself, I don't know. Well, I explained that there are many different things society is trying to do to handle all the trash we produce. I told him that when he gets older, maybe he can work toward a solution to our trash problem. For now, I know that he is following my example; and I want to be a conscientious consumer and trash producer.

I was listening to PBS's The News Hour with Jim Lehrer that aired on February 19, 2007. The show was titled Electronic Waste Adds to Pollution in India. Below is a link to the site if anyone is interested. It amazed me that "53 percent of children under 12 in India's cities are lead-poisoned, meaning permanent brain damage that claims up to 20 percent of a child's I.Q" When I read this, I thought about my son. Much of this electronic waste that is poisoning these children is coming from developed countries like the U.S.! Really makes you think.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/science/jan-june07/ewaste_02-19.html

2 comments:

Michelle Verges, Project Director said...

Catherine,

Thanks for posting this blog. I watched the show on PBS about electronic waste (e-waste): unbelievable.

I simply didn't know that countries, including the U.S., have been shipping e-waste to developing countries. Perhaps this is unsurprising to some folks. I must admit, however, I was ignorant of this issue.

From what I gathered from the story, the reason why countries are export their e-waste is for economic incentives. Instead of paying $20-$30 to recycle computers, they can make money by exporting it to other countries. In turn, countries such as India, are melting down these products to salvage gold (and other materials)from the gold-plated components. Unfortunately, this process also releases toxins, including mercury, arsenic, and lead. I hope that companies (like Ash Recyclers in Bangalore) will help reduce the e-waste problem in India. But at a more personal level, I'll be sure to pay the 20 bucks to recycle my computer when the time comes.

Your posting also got me thinking about children--thank goodness for them! They really do challenge our behaviors so that we can become good role models for them. This reminds me of another addition to the project: Bag Force. Details about Bag Force will be posted on the blog shortly.

:0) M

Molly said...

Gosh, thanks so much for that information. Catherine's information really resonates strongly with me, as I just recently had my first personal encounter with lead poisoning, and I figured I might try to describe just how sad and debilitating it actually is. I currently work as an autism consultant for dozens of local families, and just recently I met a family who wanted to start intervention for their 3-year old little boy, Charlie.

Although Charlie was just recently diagnosed with autism, both his parents and the diagnosticians admitted that they were not convinced that he actually has autism, but they knew he would receive the best possible services if they gave him the diagnosis. In truth, Charlie ate a handful of paint chips out of the window sill of their early 20th century home, when he was 18 months old, and developed lead poisoning. A once fun-loving, extremely sociable and outgoing kid, by the time Charlie left he hospital from the lead poisoning, he lost all of his speech, most of his fine motor skills, and retreated into a world that he has yet to come out of. Now, a year and a half later, he doesn't have a single word in his vocabulary, is not potty-trained, cannot handle being touched, is incapable of making eye contact with anybody, and his capacity for learning is extremely limited (which is the factor that sets his condition apart from autism, which does not limit cognitive capabilities). Charlie also began mouthing EVERYTHING after the lead poisoning. If left unattended, there is absolutely nothing he won't eat. He eats paper, dirt, rocks, chalk, feces, paint...everything. Basically what this means is that there is some deficiency in his body, ever since the lead poisoning, and he subconsciously tries to eat anything and everything to compensate for it, which of course presents itself with a whole other set of problems. While Charlie is only 3, and I typically have nothing but HUGE optimism for these kids and their future, if I may be honest, his future looks pretty dismal at this point.

So, if you haven't had the unfortunate opportunity to experience it firsthand, this is what lead poisoning looks like. I cannot fathom the fact that 53 percent of children under 12 in India are suffering from this. All because of a breakdown in recycling. Grrrrrr....