Antimicrobial resistance is not a scare story, it’s happening, the World Health Organisation warns.

The idea of antibiotics failing to work and medicine plunging back to the medieval ages seems ridiculous. However, the World Health Organisation, Center for Disease Prevention and Control and government funded research by Jim O’Neill have all now come out and said that it is a distinct possibility.

50,000 people die each year due to antibiotic resistant infections, a number that is projected to rise above the deaths by cancer by 2050, when resistance will cost the U.S 29 billion dollars each year in healthcare.

Antibiotic resistance builds up when bacteria aren’t fully exterminated by the antibiotics. In these cases, most of the bacteria are killed, but the strongest survive. The trouble is, doctors give out prescriptions far too easily, meaning that the bacteria are rarely wiped out.

America is especially guilty here, where private healthcare results in profits being more valuable than human lives. As such, doctors give out as much medicine as possible, regardless of the illness. As a result, America has a disgraceful healthcare system which is the least efficient in the world and one of the least effective amongst developed nations.

Worst of all is the meat industry which feed their animals low levels of antibiotics, as it prevents some infections and makes the livestock heavier. Low levels of antibiotic use and unsanitary conditions however, is the antibiotic resistant bacteria’s absolute dream. Worse still, these meat companies refuse to release information to scientists and so there’s no way of telling what resistance is building up.

Jim O’Neill says that the regression to medieval medicine is a genuine possibility, but easily preventable if governments and companies take responsibility and work together to improve antibiotic use and research into new antibiotics.

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How the grim conclusion of your old phones and computers will make you think twice about casually throwing them out, and what you can do about it.

In a world of increasing dependency on technology, the waste of electronic devices, or ewaste, has increased exponentially, reaching a massive 44 million tonnes a year, yet most of us turn a blind eye to what happens next.

Shockingly, only 25% of your ewaste is recycled, with the remaining three quarters exported to poorer countries, where low labour costs and lax health and safety laws make recycling cheaper. Here, metals are battered, burned and bathed in acid (figure below) to extract useful parts, and the rest ignored in landfill. What’s left is a population of working women and children exposed to heavy metals in the drinking water, toxic fumes in the air and land with beds of tangled, twisted metal.

The health effects include increased chance of cancer, decreased lung function, damage to nervous, blood, thyroid and reproductive systems and to kidneys, bones and brain.

What can you do about it?

In a lot of ways, not much. As seen when Ireland refused to accept a £50million fine the EU gave Apple from tax avoidance, huge multinational companies hold the power. Have you noticed that your devices seem to brake faster now? Well you’re right, companies deliberately make phones and computers that last, on average, half as long as they used to, so that you throw the phone out and buy their newest model. Companies also make it harder to fix your phones, so when just a single part is broken you have to buy an entire device, even if the rest works perfectly.

However, some companies are working towards taking responsibility, with Nokia and Lenovo now paying you to send the phone back to them, so the materials can be used again. Even if they don’t offer this service, companies, by law, have to take the product back when you send it and dispose of it according to strict regulation. You can also buy refurbished phones, which go through similar rigorous testing to new phones, yet are cheaper and use recycled materials. Furthermore, some devices are easily fixed with a simple youtube tutorial. Most importantly though, educate your friends and family and raise awareness to hold companies accountable for their waste. Remember, supply = demand.