Throughout the past decade or so you have probably gone through a few cell phones. You felt pretty cool with your original Nokia, eventually upgraded to that classy Motorola Razr, and now you find yourself constantly connected to your iPhone or Android. 

Americans on average replace their cellphones every 18-22 months, and a majority of phone users trash the phones or hold onto them. In fact, we recently blogged the benefits about cell phone disposal and the benefits of recycling.

But, what happens to old phones that get dumped?

In many impoverished nations, children pile up e-waste and burn the contents to extract metals, like gold, silver and copper. They then sell the parts to recycling centers for a minimal amount of money.

According to the World Health Organization, even a low level of exposure to lead, mercury and cadmium (all found in old phones), pose neurological and developmental risks. Children and pregnant women are especially prone to these dangers.

Even in the United States, many prison inmates are given jobs to process e-waste, which can create serious health problems. 

Unfortunately, the United States is the only industrialized country to not ratify the Basel Convention, an international treaty that makes trafficking e-waste illegal. Additionally, a 2011 Responsible Electronics Recycling Act was introduced to Congress but never put to a vote. This would have made it illegal to export toxic waste from the US to many countries focused on economic cooperation and development.

The Act would have provided more of an incentive to begin safer waste management programs and stop the practice of dumping e-waste into poor countries. 

The point is, we are not exactly where we want to be in terms of e-waste recycling programs. Find out the best way to dispose of e-waste in your area because safe waste management and recycling programs do exist. 

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