Isotu-Edeh made the call at a webinar on e-waste and public health in Nigeria with the theme “Health impacts of e-waste in Nigeria: are you a victim or a perpetrator?”.
According to him, Nigeria’s national disease burden is linked to environmental risk factors through exposure to e-waste.
He said pregnant women and children working at e-waste dismantling sites are the most vulnerable to impacts and exposure, as the country has a high maternal and infant mortality rate.
He added that “these e-waste materials represent a tremendous global health security challenge in maternal and child health, given that Nigeria has a high under-five mortality burden.
“This stands at 128 deaths per 1,000 live births; There is an urgent need to address the issue of e-waste, especially the children who are the future of our nation.
“The sustainability of the intervention is key to protecting Nigeria’s gains in maternal and child health.”
He said that Nigeria needed to do more to reduce the rise in cancer and other non-communicable diseases in the environment and reduce toxic emissions.
He explained that the low funding; low awareness of e-waste among government institutions and the absence of a national policy and strategy were the challenges of e-waste management in the country.
Isotu-Edeh, who emphasized the need to coordinate and strengthen capacities in e-waste management, said “Africa is a dumping ground for e-waste in much of the developed countries.”
However, he acknowledged the leadership commitment of the WHO Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Mulombo, to help the country address the health impacts of e-waste.
Bonji, who represented Akolo, said the ministry was working to end e-waste challenges across the country, calling for a more sustained partnership of stakeholders.
Dr. Kingsley Okpara, Director of Research and Documentation for the Nigeria Environmental Summit Group, said no fewer than 18 million teenagers were involved in informal e-waste collection sites.
He said that activities such as burning and dismantling discarded electronics had a great impact on the people living in the areas.
According to him, many site workers are in the habit of burning products at night when law enforcement officers have shut down the job.
He added that “we found that most people just throw away their e-waste without bothering to formally recycle it; this has led to contamination of water sources and the environment.
“Yes, there is a lot of money in it, but e-waste products contain around 1,000 harmful chemicals like lead, mercury, among others, and are naturally carcinogenic.
“Pregnant women and children work and live on e-waste sites, this should not be the case. Informal e-waste workers are completely forgotten when it comes to the toxic nature of e-waste.”
He said Nigeria had been slow to enforce e-waste management regulation, adding that stakeholders needed to be trained to manage e-waste in the country.
Dr. Chimere Ohajinwa, Senior Consultant at C-Circle Research, called on government levels to invest in local research and stop relying on foreign evidence.
He said that with an increasing reliance on technology, Nigeria would continue to increase e-waste products.
“More than 80 percent of the electronic waste generated is not recycled in the country, we are concerned about electronic waste because it contains many toxic chemicals that are dangerous to our health.”
He said that awareness-raising on e-waste management should be intensified; saying that the practice among the informal sector needs to be addressed.
The webinar was part of Phase II of the WHO-supported Nigeria National E-Waste and Health Intervention.
Such activities include; evaluation of the institutional capacity in the states, awareness, training of health workers and health educators of the local government, revision of the draft of the National Policy.
According to the UN in 2021, each inhabitant of the planet will produce an average of 7.6 kg of e-waste.
This type of waste contains dangerous substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and beryllium and persistent organic pollutants.
Edited / Hadith Mohammed-Aliyu
Source Credit: NAN