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Persistent Pollutants

High levels of dioxins in eggs laid in Ghana linked to flame retardants in electronic waste

by Cheryl Hogue
April 28, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 17


Photo shows men holding eggs laid by chickens that foraged in a scrapyard in Accra, Ghana.
Credit: Martin Holzknecht/Arnika
Eggs from chickens roaming the Agbogbloshie scrapyard contain high levels of brominated and chlorinated pollutants.

Calling for tighter global controls on some flame retardants, environmentalists and researchers describe record-breaking levels of toxic brominated dioxins in eggs laid by chickens in Ghana. Their report connects electronic waste to generation of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as dioxins. The problems arise when e-waste is sent to developing countries that lack infrastructure to handle it safely. The eggs with the highest-ever detected level of brominated dioxins, along with high levels of other brominated and chlorinated POPs, were laid by chickens foraging freely at an electronic waste scrapyard in the Agbogbloshie commercial district of Accra, Ghana’s capital. In a recent study using GPS trackers placed on old electronic equipment, an environmental group found that Agbogbloshie is a dumping ground for e-waste from the European Union. At the scrapyard, people manually dismantle obsolete computers, monitors, and televisions. They burn wires and cables, which are coated with plastics containing brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, over open fires to recover metals. The burning process creates toxic POPs, including dioxins, the report from the International POPs Elimination Network says.


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