E-Waste Offers an Economic Opportunity as Well as Toxicity

The police raid on a junkyard on the outskirts of Bangkok had all the trappings of a drug bust. Swarming onto the open-air property in late May, officers from the Royal Thai Police found undocumented workers from Laos and Myanmar engaged in dangerous work that exposed them to blasts of toxic fumes and dust — a common hazard on the lowest rung of their illegal and booming international trade. The products these workers handled, however, were not heroin or methamphetamines but vast piles of discarded computers, electrical wires and circuit boards. And it’s very likely that much of this electronic waste came from one of the world’s biggest producers: the United States.