E-waste poses threat to human health

E-waste poses threat to human health

E-waste, or electronic waste, describes end-of-life goods such as computers, TV, printers, and mobile phones. A large proportion of worldwide e-waste is exported to China.

Due to the crude recycling process, many pollutants, such as persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals, are released from e-waste, which can easily accumulate in the body through intake of contaminated air.

Each year hundreds of millions of tonnes of e-waste is generated worldwide, 100,000 tonnes of which is exported from the UK shores alone, reports the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Researchers from Zhejiang University took air samples from Taizhou - one of the largest e-waste dismantling areas in China - and examined their effects on outer coating of human lung, according to a Zhejiang statement.

After exposing the cultured lung cells to these samples, researchers tested for the level of Interleukin-8 (IL-8), a key element in inflammatory response, and Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), chemically reactive molecules that can damage health.

Inflammation is a process by which the body’s white blood cells and chemicals protect us from infection and foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses.

The results showed that the samples of pollutants caused marked spike in both Interleukin-8 (IL-8) and Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) levels, which indicate an inflammatory response and oxidative stress respectively.

Study co-author Fangxing Yang, of Zhejiang University, said: “Of course, inflammatory response and oxidative stress are also associated with other diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases.”  

“From these results, it is clear that the ‘open’ dismantlement of e-waste must be forbidden with more primitive techniques improved,” Yang added.