Electronic Waste

60 Minutes, E-Waste. Available Online: CBS News, 2009.

        According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Electronic waste, or "e-waste", refers to electronic products that are discarded by consumers. These include a wide range of items, such as:

  • televisions and computer monitors
  • computers and computer peripherals (e.g., monitors and keyboards)
  • audio and stereo equipment
  • VCRs and DVD players
  • video cameras
  • telephones, cellular phones and other wireless devices
  • fax and copy machines
  • video game consoles

        (U.S. EPA)

Electronic waste is a growing concern across the globe. As developing nations increasingly export electronic waste to developing nations. These nations, once stripping the waste of its useful parts, discard it in large dumps. These dumps become the primary source for leakage of contaminants into the environment.


Examples of Effects of Contaminants on Ecosystem Components




Change in respiration

Change in behavior (e.g., migration, predator-prey interactions)

Inhibition or induction of enzymes

Increased susceptibility to pathogens

Decreased growth

Decreased reproduction



Decreased genotypic and phenotypic diversity

Decreased biomass

Increased mortality rate

Decreased fecundity rate

Decreased recruitment of juveniles

Increased frequency of disease

Decreased yield

Change in age/size class structure



Decreased species diversity

Change in species composition

Decreased food web diversity

Decreased productivity

Increased algal blooms


Decreased diversity of communities

Altered nutrient cycling

Decreased resilience

(Mercury Report to Congress, 1997).

This website will attempt to inform you about the harmful affects that contaminants from electronic waste will have on the ecosystems which surround e-waste dumps. Each of the primary pollutants from electronic waste (Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, Chromium VI, Mercury, and Selenium) is described in detail, with many outside resources linked for further research. Although there has not been specific research done on e-waste, extensive studies of component chemicals have been conducted under different contexts which can be used as an analogy. In addition, we will attempt to outline the mechanisms by which electronic waste is exported to third world countries, whether there are any barriers in place to prevent this, as well as which companies are produce/limit their electronic waste.