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E-waste recycling heavily contaminates a Chinese city with cholinated, brominated and mixed halogenated dioxins

TitleE-waste recycling heavily contaminates a Chinese city with cholinated, brominated and mixed halogenated dioxins
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsYu X, Zennegg M, Engwall M, Rotander A, Larsson M, Hung Wong M, Weber R
Journal TitleOrganohalogen Compounds
Volume70
Pages813-816
AbstractAbout 50-80% of electronic waste (e-waste) from industrialized countries ends up in China, India, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Philippines1, 2 for cheap recycling due to the low labour costs and less stringent environmental regulations in these countries2. Recycling of this material has been undertaken for 10-20 years in these countries. E-waste contains a whole range of toxic compounds including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), brominated flame retardants (BFRs) as well as a broad range of toxic heavy metals;3. Its low tech recycling has produced contaminated mega-sites with a multitude of contaminants4, 5. An example of such a site is Guiyu city. This city is located in the Chaoyang District in Southeast China, with a total area of 52 km2 and a population of 150,000. It is a rice-growing region and its industry has been dominated by e-waste recycling since the early 1990s. The soil in this area has been found to be highly contaminated with heavy metals, polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs) and other BFRs, PCBs and other toxic compounds4, 5. Similarly, the drinking water of Guiyu city has been identified unfit for consumption and drinking water is partly imported,2,5. In the low tech e-waste treatment, open burning is carried out as a “cleaning step” for removing plastics from cables and other parts of dismantled e-waste. Open burning is also used for final disposal of residues. Since ewaste contains considerable amount of bromine (mainly from BFRs) and chlorine (mainly from PVC, plasticizers like chlorinated paraffins or PCB), a mixture of chlorinated, brominated and mixed halogenated compounds is formed from thermal treatment of this waste6. Hence, unintentionally formed POPs like PCDD/F and PAHs are formed and emitted to air7, soil5,8,9 and water in addition to the release of toxicants incorporated in the e-waste (heavy metals BFRs etc3,4. These releases ultimately provide pathways for human exposure as demonstrated e.g. for PCDD/F10. The present study presents data on PCDD/F, PBDD/F and mixed halogenated PXDD/F in soils impacted from different open burning sites in Guiyu. In addition total dioxin-like toxicity in these samples was screened with the DR CALUX assay. The relevance of these compounds with respect to the necessity of remediation measures is evaluated.
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