Video Transcript

of BBC News: Live the Story

Narrator: Recycling West Africa Style. Consumer electronics smashed, sorted and the valuable metals extracted. This is Agbogbloshie, Accra where technology goes to die. Workers here are smelting feeding fires with TV casings and fridge interiors a heat fierce enough to burn the insulation of electrical cables.

Reporter: What do you’re looking for when you’re doing this?

Hannan Insuah: When I’m doing this, I’m looking for copper.

Narrator: A finger tip search through the ashes clean scraps of metal they’re then sold on, take home pay between five and seven Euros. 

Reporter (is coughing): The men and boys working here, they range between thirteen and thirty-five years old. They’re not from Accra, they come from the North of the country and they came here on a sort of gold rush promised riches from waste. But the riches turned out to be a pittance and the gold turned out to be lead, cadmium and other heavy metals logged in their bodies and slowly poisoning them.  

Hannan Inusah: We have problems because if we didn’t bath or maybe if you bath finished in your body unless you get some medicines.

Narrator: Hannan is just 17 years old taking medicine to work in an environment so toxic that even some of the boys here refused to touch the river running free the site.

Vincent Kyere Nartey (Environmental Scientiest): And you could see the smoke also. The smoke is also troubling at any place that deposits this heavy metals or the people there can be contaminated. The soil itself, the soil itself you could see is hugely contaminated just by your sight.

Narrator: Time to leave Agbogbloshie and head with Vincent to Ghana’s Atomic Energy Commission. The lab has performed a battery of tests on soil from the site. They found cadmium 13 times over acceptable level. It can cause cancer, kidney failure, bone disease. Levels of lead which attacks the nervous system topped one hundred times the recommended maximum dose. 

Vincent Kyere Nartey (Environmental Scientiest): You wouldn’t live here. I would not advice anybody to live there. Meanwhile this place has been classified as one of the most polluted or contaminated sites in the world. 

Narrator: The processing in Agbogbloshie is fed by the illegal traffic of e-waste into Ghana. Today used TV’s from Australia and Spain are being loaded onto waiting trucks. It is nothing wrong with importing used TEC if it works if it doesn’t it’s hazardous e-waste and it shouldn’t be here. So how many of these TV’s actually work? 

Worker:  How many work? 99 percent work. 

Reporter: A hundred percent?

Worker: 99

Reporter: 99 percent, haha. How big is one percent? Ghana is working on legislation to prevent illegal e-waste import. But it is taking time as legislators don’t want to curb the legitimate trade in used TEC.

Thomas Naadi (Ghanaian Journalist): We do have some of the equipments that functions when it is imported into the country. So what the draft tests are seeking to do is to ensure thats … end up preventing the valuable trade in use and electric and electronic equipment. 

Narrator: In the meantime, young men and boys will continue to stoke the fires at Agbogbloshie and pay a heavy price with their health for a handful of change.