NEW DELHI: How shocked would you be if someone told you that recycling your discarded electronics is polluting soil and water extensively? A study by the civil engineering department of Jamia Milia Islamia, reveals extremely high levels of heavy metals in soil and water near the e-waste recycling points at Krishna Nagar near Mandoli.
E-waste recycling is done to extract metals like copper from discarded electronics like laptops, computers, etc. Though it is regulated and banned, it goes on unabated illegally in Krishna Nagar area of east Delhi.
The study found heavy metals like copper, lead, cadmium, nickel, chromium and zinc in levels way above the prescribed limits. While the prescribed level of lead is 100 mg per kg, the surveyed soil samples taken from a 5 km radius of the site, reported 298.1 mg per kg. “Cadmium concentration in soil was 16 times greater than that of agricultural standards,” the study says. Levels of chromium were three times the prescribed level.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to high levels of lead can lead to anaemia, weakness, kidney and brain damage. It can also cause death. Cadmium is known to cause cardiovascular diseases, renal problems and hypertension.
Doctors also echo WHO’s views and recall the Minamata tragedy in Japan. “We saw in Japan what lead poisoning can do. The effects of the disease which broke out in 1969 can be felt even today. We must not let history repeat itself,” said Amrutha Kadimi, a doctor with a leading hospital.
“The presence of these heavy metals in the soil leads to biomagnifications, which penetrate into the groundwater table. This is a serious health hazard,” a researcher with the Centre for Science and Environment said.
Even more alarming are the high levels of these heavy metals in water samples. While the prescribed standard for lead levels in water is 0.05 mg per litre, samples were found to have lead content of 1.25 mg per litre. With regard to cadmium, levels at the e-waste site were 0.28 mg per litre, while the prescribed amount is 0.01 mg per litre. Such high levels of water render it unfit for drinking.
Delhi Jal Board (DJB), which supplies drinking water to the city, says it is out of their jurisdiction to keep a check on pollution in the water. “Though it is a very serious issue. We are doing our best to purify the water we supply,” a senior DJB official said.