No sooner does Ellen Goodman [op-ed, June 18] decry the way industry-funded think tanks misrepresent science than your paper proves the point by printing a column from the Competitive Enterprise Institute attacking Maryland's computer recycling law [Close to Home, June 19].

Computer and TV screens use lead to protect the user from radiation. But once these electronic products become waste, the lead can pose serious health effects, such as reduced intelligence and attention span. It can cause learning disabilities and damage a child's brain and nervous system.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute asserts that there is no evidence that computers in landfills will leak lead into our soil and drinking water. Not true. The article cites the acknowledged scientific expert in the field, Timothy Townsend, to turn his research upside down. Townsend's research proved that computer monitors fail the Environmental Protection Agency's test for toxic waste. The EPA test replicates in a short time what happens in a sanitary landfill over the long term. It often takes years for toxic contaminants to leach from a landfill into the groundwater, so the EPA uses a proven scientific test for this hazard. If a particular waste fails the test, it must be safely recycled or disposed of in an EPA-approved manner. Contrary to the article, Townsend has not concluded that there is no compelling evidence that e-waste can safely be disposed in landfills, which is precisely why he continues his research.

Maryland's new law is a good solution to handle the problem of electronic waste. The law may not be perfect, but whatever states do to address this problem should not have to stand up to challenges based on misrepresentations of the existing science.

-- Scott Slesinger


The writer represents the hazardous waste recycling and disposal industry as vice president of the Environmental Technology Council.