Environment & Health Seminar: E-Waste Impacts In Our “Always On” Society

When and Where

Wednesday, March 11, 2020 4:10 pm to 6:00 pm
Room SS1071
Sidney Smith Building
100 St. George Street Toronto ON M5S 1C1


Miriam Diamond


Abstract: The world is the midst of a revolution brought on by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). Global usage of the internet has risen from 17% in 2005 to over 53% or 4.1 billion people in 2019.  Electrical and electronic devices enable this usage, including our smart phones and all the wires, servers, cables, etc that connect the system. Rates of e-waste generation have been estimated at 44.7 million metric tons (tonnes) or 6.1 kg per capita in 2016  with an annual growth rate of 3 to 4%. E-waste contains a wide range of hazardous substances, many of which are essential to product functioning. E-waste collection is mandated for high income countries. However, some e-waste finds its way to low income countries either in whole or in dismantled components and low income countries are producing their own e-waste. We have found that e-waste dismantlers in Ontario and Quebec, working in “formal” e-waste facilities, can have higher exposure to flame retardants than e-waste dismantlers in low income countries working in “informal” settings. However, families and communities in low income communities that handle e-waste are all exposed to hazardous substances due to uncontrolled burning and dumping of e-waste residuals. Much effort has gone into controlling the environmental carnage caused by e-waste. Ultimately, e-waste producers need to take responsibility for their devices rather than externalizing the human health and environmental costs of the growing mountain of e-waste.

Brief Bio: Miriam Diamond is a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences with cross-appointments to the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry, the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, School of the Environment, Department of Geography and Program in Planning, and the Physical and Environmental Sciences Program at Scarborough College. She received her B.Sc. in Biology from the University of Toronto (1976), M.Sc. from the University of Alberta in Zoology (1980), M.Sc.Eng. from Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario) in Mining Engineering (1984), and her Ph.D. from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry from University of Toronto (1990). The goal of Prof. Diamond’s multidisciplinary research program is to improve our understanding of chemical contaminants from emission, through to transport indoors and outdoors, and ultimately to human and ecological exposure. This research has been published in over 160 peer-reviewed articles and chapters, in addition to receiving media attention. Prof. Diamond is an Associate Editor of the journal Environmental Science and Technology and sits on the Editorial Review board of Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. Prof. Diamond is the co-chair of the Canadian Chemical Management Plan Science Committee, and is involved in several national and international organizations. She is a Fellow of the Canadian Geographical Society and the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. In 2007 she was named Canadian Environmental Scientist of the Year and is a finalist for 2018 the Nature Inspiration Award from the Canadian Museum of Nature. She was Co-chair of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s Toxic Reduction Scientific Expert Panel that helped usher in Ontario’s Toxic Reduction Act.


100 St. George Street Toronto ON M5S 1C1