Prison Workers Exposed to Toxins From E-Waste Recycling Work

Prison employees and prisoners in work details may have been exposed to dangerous toxins while working on a for-profit electronic waste or "e-waste" recycling program that is managed by Unicor, the government owned company that employs inmates across the country.

Investigative website FAIRWARNING.ORG reports today that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons has quietly paid about $1 million to settle a grievance over hazardous duty pay for employees of an Elkton, Ohio, prison with one of the recycling plants. On one occasion, an air test at the eastern Ohio institution found cadmium levels 450 times higher than federal safety limits.

There are eight Unicor-managed recycling plants in prisons across the countries. Workers break down consumer electronics like televisions so their parts can be sold for scrap or reuse.

Fairwarning also reports that the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General is expected within days to release its report on a years-long investigation of the recycling operations -- including accusations that prison officials ignored basic workplace safety precautions.