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Following The Trail Of Toxic E-Waste

<b>60 Minutes</b> Follows America's Toxic Electronic Waste As It Is Illegally Shipped To Become China's Dirty Secret

60 Minutes followed the trail to a place Puckett discovered in southern China - a sort of Chernobyl of electronic waste - the town of Guiyu. But we weren't there very long before we were picked up by the cops and taken to City Hall. We told the mayor we wanted to see recycling.

So he personally drove us to a shop.

"Let me explain what's happening here," Pelley remarked while in Guiyu. "We were brought into the mayor's office. The mayor told us that we're essentially not welcome here, but he would show us one place where computers are being dismantled and this is that place. A pretty tidy shop. The mayor told us that we would be welcome to see the rest of the town, but that the town wouldn't be prepared for our visit for another year.

"So we were allowed to shoot at that location for about five minutes," Pelley explained further. "And we're back in the mayor's car headed back to City Hall, where I suspect we'll be given another cup of tea and sent on our way out of town with a police escort no doubt."

And we were. But the next day, in a different car and on a different road, we got in.

"This is really the dirty little secret of the electronic age," Jim Puckett said.

Greenpeace has been filming around Guiyu and caught the recycling work. Women were heating circuit boards over a coal fire, pulling out chips and pouring off the lead solder. Men were using what is literally a medieval acid recipe to extract gold. Pollution has ruined the town. Drinking water is trucked in. Scientists have studied the area and discovered that Guiyu has the highest levels of cancer-causing dioxins in the world. They found pregnancies are six times more likely to end in miscarriage, and that seven out of ten kids have too much lead in their blood.

"These people are not just working with these materials, they're living with them. They're all around their homes," Pelley told Allen Hershkowitz.

"The situation in Guiyu is actually pre-capitalist. It's mercantile. It reverts back to a time when people lived where they worked, lived at their shop. Open, uncontrolled burning of plastics. Chlorinated and brominated plastics is known worldwide to cause the emission of polychlorinated and polybrominated dioxins. These are among the most toxic compounds known on earth," Hershkowitz explained.

"We have a situation where we have 21st century toxics being managed in a 17th century environment."