Combustion is slowed as the additional bromine in the air interferes with the

Combustion is slowed as the additional bromine in the

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plastic heats. Combustion is slowed as the additional bromine in the air interferes with the supply of oxygen needed to sustain fire. Brominated flame retardants have become ubiquitous in the environment; they are found at high levels in a wide range of living organisms, from harbor seals in San Francisco Bay, to Arctic polar bears, to the breast milk of humans in the United States. 75 PBDEs bioaccumulate in fatty tissues; they are recognized as toxic and carcinogenic and are described as endocrine disrupters. 76 The E.U. and the states of Washington and California have banned the manufacture, distribution, or processing of goods with PBDEs. The Global E-Waste Crisis The global tide of toxic electronic waste (e-waste) is an escalating environmental and health disaster, especially for countries in Asia, West Africa, and Latin America where e- waste is often shipped for cheap recycling. According to EPA estimates, in 2005 more than 2.6 million tons of e-waste were generated in the U.S., and that flood of waste is expected to increase dramatically with the nationwide switch from analog to digital TV in February 2009. In 2005, only 12.5 percent of that 2.6 million tons was collected for recycling. The remainder—more than 87 percent—was disposed of, largely in U.S. landfills or incinerators. The hazardous materials in e-waste, which include lead and other toxic heavy metals like mercury, chromium, and cadmium, can leach out of the landfills into groundwater and streams, and the burning of plastics can emit dioxins into the air. As of March 2008, at least ten states had passed laws banning disposal of some electronics in landfills. Some of that 12.5 percent of e-waste collected for recycling is recycled responsibly, but an estimated 50 to 80 percent of it is exported to developing countries where it is dismantled or disposed of using very rudimentary and toxic technologies. †† The imprecision of that estimate reflects the fact that it is almost impossible to track the amount of U.S. e-waste that is shipped overseas. The U.S. is one of only three nations (the others are Afghanistan and Haiti) that have not ratified the Basel Convention, an international treaty designed to stop free trade in hazardous wastes. In addition, a significant amount of U.S. e- waste is recycled using prison labor in this country. ††† Electronics TakeBack Coalition, “E-Waste: The Exploding Global Electronic Waste Crisis,” October 10, 2008 (Issue briefing book), p. 8, available at †† Ibid., p. 4. ††† Ibid., p. 6.
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