This interview features Dr. Oladele Ogunseitan – professor, founding chair of the Department of Population Health and Disease Prevention, and Presidential Chair at University of California Irvine – who will be a Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health visiting scholar for the 2022–23 year. Dr. Ogunseitan’s research focuses on discovering the root of problems related to industrial development and environmental safety, specifically the accumulation of discarded cell phones, computers, and other electronic devices referred to as “e-waste.” Dr. Ogunseitan outlines the health dangers of this largely unregulated domain and the toxic exposures those on either end of a device’s lifecycle face, specifically the negative maternal and fetal outcomes in the 12 million women and 18 million children exposed to toxic chemicals produced by e-waste. As the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many to consider the waste produced by the healthcare industry for things like personal protective equipment, Dr. Ogunseitan shines a different light on this issue by describing the less commonly considered waste created by medical testing and increased use of digital devices in the healthcare industry, such as the high turnover of electronic thermometers. Dr. Ogunseitan calls upon companies behind the production and management of e-waste to collectively contribute small investments for the purchase of equipment that ensures better safety for those working in the e-waste industry. He emphasizes that, as some of the most profitable companies in the world, the funds to support this undertaking undoubtedly exist. Dr. Ogunseitan also stresses that our planet is a closed system, and waste that is out of sight is not waste that is eliminated, but merely waste that is relocated. New incentives and economic restructuring must be implemented to hold culpable corporations accountable for their contributions to e-waste. Circular economies – economies that use the waste of one industry to drive the progress of another – are a popular topic in sustainability solutions but are not without flaw, as recognized by Dr. Ogunseitan who states, “there are always leakages.” However, he hopes that his time and teaching opportunities at Stanford will bring new knowledge, perspective, and partnerships that can enhance his innovation and research efforts and provide new solutions to the problem of e-waste.
You can view the complete article at Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health.