The Cross Continental Experience Blog by Clayton Richardson, CCMPH Student
September 12, 2018
This week for their first site visit students of the cross continental MPH program visited Agbogbloshie. At the site of what was once West Africa’s largest food market, Agbogbloshie has become the world’s largest e-waste dump. Miles of waste litter the landscape, and plumes of smoke fill the air. Toxic chemicals leak from computers, lead paint chips fall off of metal objects and the smell of burning plastic fills the air. Agbogbloshie is one of the most chemically polluted sites in the world, with lead soil levels 40 times higher than the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s lead contamination limit. What differs it from other sites of similar toxicity is its population of 40,000 people, and dozens of herds of livestock. Among the piles of garbage exists a thriving hive of people, each one doing their job to contribute to this society. Theses individuals live their lives amongst refuse discarded by their wealthier neighbors. Clever approaches to recycling and survival take place. Car air conditioners are repurposed as cycling fans, aluminum cans are smelted into cookware, and computer parts are salvaged and resold to repair shops. At Agbogbloshie one mans trash is another mans way of survival. Though survival is only temporary here, sadly many of the individuals that call this place home have heavy metal blood toxicity levels that are 17 times higher than the international standard. CCMPH student Molly Hirsh describes her experience there below.
Car parts, blasting stereo, roasted yam.
A microcosm of smells and sounds testing
my capacity for sensory stimulation.
Stepping over shards of glass and plastic
bottles matted by a mixture of dung and straw
we traversed over mountains of
litter following mothers cradling babies
wrapped tightly against their backs and
men tending to roaring piles of smoke,
Tuning and extracting copper wire
from within their plastic confines.
Wide eyed infants look on as flames of green
and yellow flicker, motorcycles passing within
inches on narrow paths, clouds of ash
billowing. This is a community, a thriving
market and economy on which people survive,
not so easily dismissed.
I shake hands with innovators, entrepreneurs.
Still I can’t help but think how these children
must be dying from the waste of others.