A recent World Bank report highlights that any first-world secondary school has more computers than all households in a single major city in Sierra Leone or Guinea Bissau can collect together.
How, then, is it possible that the concentrations in blood of toxic metals present in high technology are at the level of the rich world or, even, as is the case with vanadium, at levels only observed among workers in an Austrian factory of that mettle?to the?
This is one of the paradoxes that ten researchers from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) and the Hospital Insular set out to address in the study they have just published in the journal "Environmental Pollition" on toxic metals found in the blood of African immigrants who have arrived in the archipelago in recent years by boat.
In the absence of studies carried out in the countries of origin themselves, the scientists of these two institutions analyzed the blood of245 immigrants from 16 countries of the continent who volunteered to collaborate with this research in the two months following their arrival on the islands, most of them men (203 versus 42), between 15 and 45 years old and in apparent good health.
Laboratory analysis found that three specific elements(aluminum, arsenic and vanadium)They were the blood of 100 percent of the study subjects, they came from the country they came from, and that other metals, such as chromium, mercury and lead, could be found in more than 90 percent of the cases.
The authors of the work, whose first signatory is Luis Alberto Henríquez-Hernández, of the Biomedical Research Institute of the ULPGC, point out that the element with the highest concentrations in the blood of these young Africans isaluminum, Presentin their bodies at levels ten or fifteen times higher than those in developed countries, what they attribute to the great quantity of pots of this metal that is used in Africa for cooking.
Lead and 12 other metals
The next is lead, found in half of the candidates at levels much higher than those that an American, a Japanese or a European can present, something that they relate to the lack of control of lead pipes and obsolete paints.
The rest of the 12 metals examined in this study are related in one way or another to components of mobile phones, computers, tablets, electrical appliance circuits ... and are in the blood of Africans at levels comparable to those of any first world country ( with the exception of vanadium, found in much higher doses), when the penetration of these technologies in the continent is much lower than that of North America, the EU or Japan.
The signatories of the article have no doubts as to why all this is due: it is estimated, they say, that 80% of the"Technological garbage" generates the first world is sent to Africa, both to supply the trade of these products with second-hand models, often obsolete and very short-lived, and to nurture “informal” recycling chains (euphemism for unhealthy or illegal).
The work supports this assertion in several statistical data: the 16 countries examined are among the poorest in the world, but the concentrations of these metals are higher among immigrants from nations with higher GDP, with more phones per 100 inhabitants, with more Internet users and, above all, with a higher import volume of second-hand electronic devices.
A citizen, a mobile
The authors highlight another fact: Africa may be behind the rest of the world in fixed telephone lines, but the use of mobile phones has exploded in their countries in recent years, both in cities and in rural areas, to the point that many States have reached the paradigm of “one citizen, one mobile”. Of course, 97% of the continent's mobile phones are second-hand.
For all these reasons, they recommend further monitoring of this type of pollutant, because "some of these elements pose a huge risk, especially for children ”, and because "it is well known that pollution does not respect borders, so the inadequate management of these technological waste in those countries can produce a generalized increase in the global presence of these pollutants."