Study confirms that uncontrolled e-waste treatment produces carcinogenic effects

Aug 20, 2014

A study carried out by the research group of the University of Alicante "Waste, Pyrolysis and Combustion", University of Alicante, confirms that most of the waste from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is not treated properly. In this sense, once reused and recycled in treatment plants, electronic devices will pass into thermal systems (incinerators, cement plants, ceramics ...) where contaminants can be destroyed under controlled conditions. Unfortunately, as stated by the research group, most of these wastes are not treated properly and are being moved to third world countries where they are burned with no control producing brominated pollutants, which have carcinogenic effects. Another small part of this electronic remains reaches controlled dumping sites in our country, with the danger of the emission of carcinogens caused by spontaneous combustion.

This research is part of a doctoral thesis on thermal decomposition of electrical and waste: kinetic study and formation of pollutants, by Nuria Ortuño, from the Department of Chemical Engineering, under the supervision of UA lecturers Juan A . Conesa and Julia Moltó. Its main objective is to analyse the effect of the presence of metals during the WEEE treatment. Researchers explain that during the four years of the study, they have observed, that the amount of brominated pollutants increases dramatically in the presence of metals and with low temperature and low presence of oxygen, which are very much controlled in heat treatment systems.

Pollution derived from use

Furthermore, Nuria Ortuño has used various substances in electronic equipment, used mobile printed circuits and TV cases to investigate the possibility of producing brominated contaminants during treatment and even during the product life.

In the case of the emission of pollutants during the use of television, due to overheating which sometimes these devices are subjected to, the doctoral student has done a study on heating up to 250 º C a TV case made of high impact polystyrene, common material in these devices. Thesis director Juan A. Conesa explains that at temperatures below 100 ° C , which is reached by televisions in our homes, there are no major pollution problems, the trouble is the temperatures they are subjected to during the manufacturing or recycling processes.

Recycling process

Electronic waste is usually deposited at recycling centres in each city or country. From there, they are carried to authorised recycling plants for decontamination and distribution by types such as plastics, metals ... for a subsequent recycling process. During this process, they explain, there are materials which currently can not be recycled and therefore are also likely to produce harmful effects.

Recent data obtained in 2012, suggest that 9.9 million tonnes of WEEE were generated in Europe. In Spain, the figure amounted to 800 thousand tonnes, equivalent to 18 kg per capita.

Explore further: Toxic computer waste in the developing world

Related Stories

Plastics in electrical waste: Disposal or recycling?

Mar 16, 2012

Every year, the editors of the scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology, select the best papers among their peer-reviewed contributions, which numbered more than 1500 in 2011 alone. This year, ...

Toxic computer waste in the developing world

Jun 03, 2014

As the developing world continues to develop, standards of living and access to technology increases. Unfortunately, as personal computers, laptops and mobile phones become increasingly common so the problem of recycling ...

Advances in recycling for the electronics sector

Sep 26, 2012

Research has addressed the mounting problem of polymers from the electronics sector entering the waste stream. An EU-funded research team investigated a fully recyclable polymer and have developed new moulding ...

Recommended for you

China's struggle for water security

12 hours ago

Way back in 1999, before he became China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao warned that water scarcity posed one of the greatest threats to the "survival of the nation".

Canada revises upward CO2 emission data since 1990

12 hours ago

Canada revised its greenhouse gas emission data from 1990 to 2013 in a report Friday, showing it had higher carbon dioxide discharges each year, and a doubling of emissions from its oil sands.

Climate censorship gains steam in red states

Apr 17, 2015

While plenty of people found humor in the recent news that officials in Florida and Wisconsin are censoring state workers' ability to talk about, much less work on, climate change, other states are not necessarily laughing. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.