Knowledge for better food systems

European e-waste poisons Africa’s food chain

Free-range eggs in the Agbogbloshie slum in Ghana are contaminated with some of the highest levels ever measured (in eggs) of certain toxic substances due to the illegal dumping of electronic waste from Europe, according to this report from Swedish non-profit IPEN and US non-profit Basel Action Network.

Around 80,000 people live in Agbogbloshie, many of whom make a living by extracting copper and other metals from electronic waste. The process involves burning plastic cables and casings, which releases highly toxic substances including brominated and chlorinated dioxins and furans.

The report finds that an adult eating just one egg from a chicken foraging in Agbogbloshie would exceed the European Food Safety Authority’s tolerable daily intake for chlorinated dioxins by 220-fold.

Read the full report, Weak Controls: European e-waste poisons Africa’s food chain, here (PDF link) and read a summary here. See also the Foodsource building block What is food security?

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The 54 countries in Africa – from the dry northern African nations, through those in deserts and rainforests, all the way to the temperate parts of South Africa – are hugely varied in their ethnic, cultural, climatic, geographic, and economic aspects. The continent’s population of over a billion inhabitants, with a median age of 19.7 years, is the youngest in the world. Due to both its localised epidemics of hunger and its huge untapped agricultural potential, Sub-Saharan Africa specifically is a key focus area for many NGOs and development agencies interested in food production and security.

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