Barbadians will soon know the extent to which heavy metals resulting from e-waste are impacting on the environment, thanks to a study to be conducted by the government.
Minister of the Environment and National Beautification Trevor Prescod revealed that the Environmental Protection Division has secured a US$148, 000 grant from the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) in order to conduct the research.
Prescod explained that due to Barbados’ heavy consumption of electronics, the management of cadmium, lead and mercury has become a focus of Government.
“We live in a technological age. Practically everyone has a cellular phone, computer or other electrical or electronic device. When these items reach the end of their useful life they are discarded and considered as electronic waste or e-waste,” said Prescod, who was speaking to the media at his office at Warrens Tower 2 this morning.
“E-waste contains a wide variety of materials including hazardous materials… which may contaminate the environment especially when that disposal occurs in gullies, through burning of waste in our backyards or other inappropriate means. Cadmium, lead, and mercury are toxic substances and are possible human carcinogens. Exposure may harm organs and effects include kidney damage and delayed neurological and physical development,” the Minister pointed out.
Prescod further explained that the ultimate aim of the research was to inform the government’s policy, as it pertains to the importation and disposal of these materials.
As part of the project, samples of Barbados’ groundwater, marine water, soil, sediment, and fish will be collected and analyzed to determine the existing levels of cadmium, lead, and mercury. The collected samples will be sent to an international laboratory for analysis.
The results will be used to make recommendations to Cabinet as to how releases of cadmium, lead and mercury can be controlled and explore options for the sound storage and disposal of products containing those elements.
However, Prescod advised that while it is too early to say whether an environment tax would be necessary to facilitate proper disposal of these items, economics was not going to be a factor for the preservation of Barbados’ environmental well being.
“Policy will come after the research is done and I think we will always take into consideration the cost to the health of the nation. We would not make the economic cost the factor in guiding our way forward. When we get the information we will be able to make the analysis. We do not want to jump the gun [about] additional cost because our concerns are far beyond those considerations,” he stressed.