Elevated concentrations of metals in China’s e-waste recycling workshops

Mar 31, 2008
Elevated concentrations of metals in China’s e-waste recycling workshops
Scientists report environmental contamination from crude recycling practices after collecting dust samples near e-waste processing workshops. Above are discarded printed circuit boards outside a shop in the Beilin district of Guiyu, Guangdong Province.Courtesy of Croucher Institute for Environmental Sciences, Hong Kong Baptist University

In a case study on how not to recycle electronic waste (e-waste), scientists in the United States and Hong Kong have documented serious environmental contamination with potentially toxic metals from crude e-waste recycling in a village located in southeast China.

Recycling methods used in family-run workshops could pose a serious health risk to residents of the area through ingestion and inhalation of contaminated dust, the researchers say. Their study is scheduled for the April 15 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology.

The process of discarding computers and other consumer electronics has emerged as one of the fastest growing segments of the global waste stream. Known as e-waste, these scrapped electronic goods contain lead, copper and other hazardous materials, which can release dangerous toxins that cause air and water contamination. Up to 50-million tons of e-waste is generated worldwide each year — enough to fill a line of garbage collection trucks stretching halfway around the world — according to the United Nations Environment Program.

China is now the destination for 70 percent of the computers, TVs, cell phones, and other e-waste recycled globally each year. Ming H. Wong and colleagues collected dust samples from roads adjacent to e-waste processing workshops in Guiya, China, to find that lead levels were 330 and 371 times higher than non e-waste sites located 5 miles and 19 miles away. Copper levels were 106 and 155 times higher.

“Currently, there are no guidelines or regulations for heavy metals in dust. It is hoped that the results can serve as a case study for similar e-waste activities in countries such as Africa, India and Vietnam where e-waste is becoming a growing problem, so that the same mistakes could be prevented.”

Source: ACS

Explore further: Coastal defences could contribute to flooding with sea-level rise

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Taking great ideas from the lab to the fab

42 minutes ago

A "valley of death" is well-known to entrepreneurs—the lull between government funding for research and industry support for prototypes and products. To confront this problem, in 2013 the National Science ...

SR Labs research to expose BadUSB next week in Vegas

1 hour ago

A Berlin-based security research and consulting company will reveal how USB devices can do damage that can conduct two-way malice, from computer to USB or from USB to computer, and can survive traditional ...

Recommended for you

Australia launches 'Green Army' for environment

1 hour ago

Australia on Saturday launched its 'Green Army' which plans to recruit up to 15,000 young people for projects to conserve and rehabilitate the environment—the biggest land care mobilisation in the nation's ...

Tracking giant kelp from space

18 hours ago

Citizen scientists worldwide are invited to take part in marine ecology research, and they won't have to get their feet wet to do it. The Floating Forests project, an initiative spearheaded by scientists ...

Heavy metals and hydroelectricity

20 hours ago

Hydraulic engineering is increasingly relied on for hydroelectricity generation. However, redirecting stream flow can yield unintended consequences. In the August 2014 issue of GSA Today, Donald Rodbell of ...

What's wiping out the Caribbean corals?

21 hours ago

Here's what we know about white-band disease: It has already killed up to 95 percent of the Caribbean's reef-building elkhorn and staghorn corals, and it's caused by an infectious bacteria that seems to be ...

User comments : 0