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Federal Prisons Exporting Hazardous Waste and Exposing Workers to Heavy Metals

U.S. Government Caught Exporting Hazardous Waste Overseas and Exposing Workers to Toxic Byproducts from Electronic Recycling

 
PRLog - Oct. 26, 2010 - CHICAGO -- A recent investigation by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General reveals that a federal prison corporation, operating under the name UNICOR, knowingly exposed staff and inmates to toxic heavy metals and exported hazardous waste to developing countries. These unsafe recycling practices made staff and workers sick when exposed to high levels of toxins. Harmful metals released during disassembly include cadmium, lead, mercury, arsenic, and beryllium which are toxic to humans and the environment.

The report, entitled “Review of Federal Prison Industries’ Electronic-Waste Recycling Program,” reveals unlawful practices in the government’s computer and electronics recycling programs, but also notes that UNICOR staff was involved in cover-ups, money laundering, theft, and other charges. In addition, prison environments are unsuitable for the proper recycling of electronics and can allow criminals potential access to sensitive data on hard drives and other data media.

The recycling program lacked worker safety standards, environmental protection, proper training and exposed workers to noise and heat stress, injury, and heavy metal poisoning. UNICOR is responsible for medical care of workers affected by unsafe working situations. The facilities also needed costly environmental remediation, to improve operational conditions, due to contamination from heavy metals because of improper processing.

The investigation showed that dismantled electronics were shipped overseas to India, Korea, and Malaysia. Research has shown that e-waste recycling practices in these nations have serious health, safety, and environmental problems that negatively affect both the population and the environment. Common practices in these countries include burning hazardous waste materials, allowing toxins to leach into the soil and ground water, and handling heavy metals without protective equipment due to lack of regulations.

View a copy of the report at: http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/BOP/o1010.pdf.

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