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Formal recycling of e-waste leads to increased exposure to toxic metals: An occupational exposure study from Sweden
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Applied Environmental Science (ITM). Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.
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2014 (English)In: Environment International, ISSN 0160-4120, E-ISSN 1873-6750, Vol. 73, 243-251 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Electrical and electronic waste (e-waste) contains multiple toxic metals. However, there is currently a lack of exposure data for metals on workers in formal recycling plants. The objective of this study was to evaluate workers' exposure to metals, using biomarkers of exposure in combination with monitoring of personal air exposure. We assessed exposure to 20 potentially toxic metals among 55 recycling workers and 10 office workers at three formal e-waste recycling plants in Sweden. Workers at two of the plants were followed-up after 6 months. We collected the inhalable fraction and OFC (37-mm) fraction of particles, using personal samplers, as well as spot samples of blood and urine. We measured metal concentrations in whole blood, plasma, urine, and air filters using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry following acid digestion. The air sampling indicated greater airborne exposure, 10 to 30 times higher, to most metals among the recycling workers handling e-waste than among the office workers. The exposure biomarkers showed significantly higher concentrations of chromium, cobalt, indium, lead, and mercury in blood, urine, and/or plasma of the recycling workers, compared with the office workers. Concentrations of antimony, indium, lead, mercury, and vanadium showed close to linear associations between the inhalable particle fraction and blood, plasma, or urine. In conclusion, our study of formal waste recycling shows that workers performing recycling tasks are exposed to multiple toxic metals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 73, 243-251 p.
Keyword [en]
E-waste, Recycling, Occupational, Toxic metals, Exposure biomarkers, Air sampling
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-111420DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.07.006ISI: 000345540700028OAI: diva2:775742


Available from: 2015-01-05 Created: 2015-01-02 Last updated: 2015-01-05Bibliographically approved

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Lundgren, Lennart
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