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Issue 33
, 2011
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Passing the poisonous parcel

Priti Mahesh
Source: Our Planet, UNEP, April, 2011, Date: , 2011

11 a.m.: In a small room in the bylanes of Silampur in East Delhi, Aslam is busy breaking open computers. He’s been doing this work for years at this recycling hub and knows exactly which parts are valuable and need to be separated. His tools are at hand; hammer, screwdriver, pliers and blowtorch. He shares this 6 feet by 8 feet workplace with three other teenage boys. They work 10 hours a day, for meagre $3-5 each. Aslam’s friend Sabir is using a blowtorch to remove the so-called ‘jewels’ (capacitors, integrated circuits, etc.) from the circuit boards. The small, poorly ventilated room immediately fills up with fumes, making the boys uncomfortable: but they wipe their eyes and carry on. They know these fumes. They inhale them everyday. What they don’t know is that they contain lead, a poison that is permanently damaging their lungs and kidneys.

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Our Planet, UNEP, April, 2011 Issue. (Selected pages reproduced).