What is E-Waste and What Health Risks does it Bring?

E-Waste: Health Impacts in Developing Countries (EHS Journal, Jul. 19, 2014)

Today we review a paper that describes the size and health threat of the annual disposal of 40M tones of e-waste, nearly 50% of which comes from EU and USA/Canada, with most of the disposal and processing taking place in Asian countries such as India, China and Pakistan. E-waste is considered more dangerous than most other municipal waste because of the harmful metals that when incinerated produce high health risk dioxins and furans. Government and public health regulations are called for in the manufacturing and recycling of electronic devices, as well as in the safe handling of the waste management.

ewaste

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Has Municipal Waste Peaked?

Peak Waste? The Other Side of the Industrial Cycle (14 page pdf, Ugo Bardi, Virginia Pierini, Alessandro Lavacchi and Christophe Mangeant, Sustainability, Jun. 30, 2014)

Today we turn our attention to one of the key areas of responsibility for municipalities (along with their control of traffic and road construction, water supply and local public health)- the collection of solid waste and storage in “city dumps”. The article under review looks at trends in garbage collection, pointing out that cities typically deal with short lived items such as packaging and perishable goods rather than the types of output of industrial waste which may include nuclear waste with lifetimes lasting hundreds of years.

Reference is made to the early work of the Club of Rome and its 1972 “Limits to Growth” world model, linking the economy to consumption of goods to pollution and waste, warning that, without a change, the global system would decline markedly. New data on waste now indicate that along with a peak in automobile, there now is an observed peak in municipal waste, citing the trends in the world’s leading producers of garbage (and greenhouse gases), China and the USA, a trend observed in other developed countries which is seen to be the result of efforts to reuse products and turn to renewable energy over carbon-based energy sources, as well as to more efficient waste treatment facilities.

MSW china and USA_Page_1MSW china and USA_Page_2

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What Do Crematoriums Contribute to Urban Air Pollution?

Toxic Emissions from Crematories: A Review(7 page pdf, Montse Mari, José L. Domingo, Environment International, Oct. 12, 2009)

Also discussed here: Incineration – EMEP/EEA Emission Inventory Guidebook(13 page pdf, Marc Deslauriers, David R. Niemi and Mike Woodfield, 2009)

Today we review the literature on emissions from incineration  of human bodies which is the way almost all bodies are disposed of in Japan and China and have increased to around 37% in the USA and Europe today and increasing about 10% per decade. Very few analyses of emissions from crematoriums are available but there are concerns about the amount of mercury from tooth fillings that end up in the air. The paper concludes that unless  mercury emissions from crematories are properly controlled, these facilities -which number over 1,000 in Europe alone – could become an important source of air pollution.

cremation

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Are Composts a Public Health Hazard?

Legionella bacteria found in compost products (University of Strathclyde, Oct. 1, 2013)

Also quoted here: Legionella spp. in UK composts – a potential public health issue (Abstract, Sandra L. Currie, Tara K. Beattie, Charles W. Knapp, Diane S. J. Lindsay, Clinical Microbiology and Infection, Sep.3,  2013)
And here : Does compost really pose a threat to our health? (Lucy Siegle, The Observer, Oct.20, 2013)
Many people compost their organic garbage, thinking that this is good for the environment, produces rich soil for home gardens and extends the life of urban land-fills. Today we review a report from the UK which looked at the presence of Legionella in composts both store-bought and home-made. Almost 60% of the composts contained Legionella which can cause human disease. The good news is that  infection from this is rare, especially if proper hygiene is followed – and it is recommended that compost packaging carry public health warnings to this effect.

compost heap

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Zero Waste Swedish Style

Sweden Runs Out of Garbage(Eco-waste, Sep. 18, 2013)

Also discussed here: Towards a greener future with Swedish Waste -to-energy – The world’s best example(28 page pdf, Avfall Sverige, 2013)

swdish waste

Today we review a report on the Swedish approach to waste management using modern incineration, an approach that has few  rivals world-wide in terms of energy recovery and in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 76% from 1990 to 2020. Only 4% of waste (no organic by law) is sent to landfills. Waste incineration expected to grow world-wide by 4% per year from 200 million tons in 2007.

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Modelling Energy, Consumption and Waste Flows for Cities

Quantification of urban metabolism through coupling with the life cycle assessment framework: concept development and case study(15 page pdf, Benjamin Goldstein, Morten Birkved, Maj-Britt Quitzauand Michael Hauschild, Environ. Res. Lett., Jul. 26, 2013)

Today we review a more sophisticated estimate of the ecological footprint of a city using a 3rd generation urban metabolic model called UM-LCA for short. The model is applied to five cities with different characteristics: Cape Town, Toronto, Beijing, London and Hong Kong and the resulting estimates reveal large differences in per capita contributions to global warming and energy flows, showing once again the destructive outcomes from sprawled cities and private vehicle use such as Toronto and of the relative emissions from residences and industry.

cities matabolsism

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How Does Waste Heat from MegaCities Affect the Global Atmospheric Circulation?

Energy consumption and the unexplained winter warming over northern Asia and North America(5 Page pdf, Guang J. Zhang, Ming Cai and Aixue Hu, Nature Climate Change, Jan 27, 2013)

Also discussed here: Cities change temperatures for thousands of miles(UCAR ATMOS News, Jan. 27, 2013)

And here: City heat affects temperatures 1,000 miles away(The Times of India, Jan. 28, 2013)

Today we review global climate modeling research that examined the contribution of the waste heat produced by buildings and vehicle emissions in very large cities. Although this heat is small compared to the warming from greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere for the entire world, the model simulations reveal large changes in the regional circulation near these cities which may intensify local weather events such as droughts or extreme storms.

earth-at-night-thm_0

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