Back in June of this year, CBS News correspondent Scott Pelley and a 60 Minutes crew paid a visit to an electronics-waste recycling plant in China. Their mission was to investigate the illegal smuggling of e-waste from the US to China, but the crew was driven from the plant when a group of angry workers descended upon them. Viewers will get the full report when it airs this Sunday on 60 Minutes.
The crew's ill-fated journey began when they followed a crate of computer monitors from Denver, Colorado all the way to Guiyu, China, where poorly paid workers dismantle electronic waste in a process that uses caustic chemicals to eat through plastic and retrieve valuable but cancer-causing substances such as lead, mercury, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
Apparently, the plant's workers were angered when the crew began filming their activities. A group of about 12 workers assailed the crew, throwing batteries and grabbing at filming equipment. Associate producer Nicole Young sustained a bruise, but other injuries were not reported.
"After a few minutes of filming, we were jumped," Pelley reported. "Several men struggled for our cameras. They got a soil sample we had taken for testing. But we managed to wrestle the cameras back."
Workers at the Guiyu plant earn about $8 a day to engage in the illegal and highly hazardous dismantling of electronic waste. Their processes release noxious chemicals not only into the air they breathe, but also into the ground and water. Guiyu's water supply is so toxic that potable water must be trucked in, and birth defect and lead poisoning rates are extremely high--but the people of Guiyu have little other choice.
Further coverage can be found on CBSNews.com. The report, complete with footage of the attack, will air on 60 Minutes Sunday, November 9 at 7:00 p.m.