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Frontiers of Medicine

ISSN 2095-0217

ISSN 2095-0225(Online)

CN 11-5983/R

Postal Subscription Code 80-967

2018 Impact Factor: 1.847

Front. Med.    2015, Vol. 9 Issue (2) : 220-228     DOI: 10.1007/s11684-015-0391-1
E-waste environmental contamination and harm to public health in China
Xijin Xu1,2,Xiang Zeng1,3,4,H. Marike Boezen3,4,Xia Huo1,*()
1. Laboratory of Environmental Medicine and Developmental Toxicology, and Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Immunopathology, Shantou University Medical College, Shantou 515041, China
2. Department of Cell Biology and Genetics, Shantou University Medical College, Shantou 515041, China
3. Department of Epidemiology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands
4. Groningen Research Institute for Asthma and COPD (GRIAC), University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, 1 Hanzeplein, Groningen 9700RB, the Netherlands
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The adverse effects of electronic waste (e-waste) on the human body have stirred up concern in recent years. China is one of the countries that confront serious pollution and human exposure of e-waste, and the majority of the population is exposed to potentially hazardous substances that are derived from informal e-waste recycling processes. This study reviews recent reports on human exposure to e-waste in China, with particular focus on exposure routes (e.g., inhalation and ingestion) and several toxicities of human (e.g., endocrine system, respiratory system, reproductive system, developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, and genetic toxicity). Pieces of evidence that associate e-waste exposure with human health effects in China are assessed. The role of toxic heavy metals (e.g., lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and nickel) and organic pollutants (e.g., polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), polyhalogenated aromatic hydrocarbons (PHAHs), bisphenol A (BPA)) on human health is also briefly discussed.

Keywords e-waste      heavy metal      organic pollutant      hazardous      toxicity      human health      China     
Corresponding Authors: Xia Huo   
Just Accepted Date: 06 March 2015   Online First Date: 30 March 2015    Issue Date: 22 May 2015
URL:     OR
Fig.1  Informal e-waste recycling activities in Guiyu, including roasting, burning, dismantling, acid leaching, inappropriate shredding, and dumping.
Pollutant categories Health effects and potential toxic mechanism Commercial sources of exposure Ecological source of exposure Route of exposure
Persistent organic pollutants
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) Carcinogenic, genotoxic, endocrine disrupting, metabolic syndromes, low birth weight, decrease in IQ, decreased psychomotor and mental development, neurobehavioral development, and decreased female fertility Fire retardants for electronic equipment Air, dust, food, water, soil, and food Ingestion, inhalation, and transplacental
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) Probably carcinogenic, thyroid function, cognitive function and development, neuropsychological development, attention deficits, decrease in IQ, intellectual impairment, low birth weight, and reduced growth Dielectric ?uids, lubricants and coolants in generators, capacitors and transformers, ?uorescent lighting, ceiling fans, dishwashers, and electric motors Air, dust, soil, and food (bioaccumulative in ?sh and seafood) Ingestion, inhalation or dermal contact, and transplacental
Polychlorinated dibenzodioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/PCDFs) Carcinogenic, thyroid function, type II diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, fetal toxicity, reproductive toxicity, feminization, changes in sex ratio at birth, and infantile autism Released as a combustion by-product but also found in dielectric ?uids, lubricants and coolants in generators, capacitors and transformers, ?uorescent lighting, ceiling fans, dishwashers, and electric motors Air, dust, soil, food, water, and vapor Ingestion, inhalation, dermal contact, and transplacental
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) Carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic, toxicity of development and reproduction, DNA damage, lung, skin, bladder, and potentially larynx and kidney Released as combustion by-product Released as combustionby-product, air, dust, soil, and food Ingestion, inhalation, and dermal contact
Lead (Pb) Affects enzyme activity, membrane ion channel, signal molecules, gene expression, neurogenesis, neurodegeneration, decrease in IQ, impaired cognitive function, anemia, neuropsychological function, nephrotoxic, and adult hearing loss Printed circuit boards, cathode ray tubes, lightbulbs, televisions, and batteries Air, dust, water, and soil Inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact
Cadmium (Cd) Affects enzyme activity, kidney injury, decreased bone density, lung damage, carcinogenic, mutagenetic, decrease in IQ, neurodevelopment, adult hearing loss, low birth weight, cell apoptosis, and gene expression Switches, springs, connectors, printed circuit boards, batteries, infrared detectors, semi-conductor chips, ink or toner photocopying machines, cathode ray tubes, and mobile phones Air, dust, soil, water, and food (especially rice and vegetables) Inhalation and ingestion
Mercury (Hg) Induction of oxidative stress, inflammatory, nerve cell apoptosis; affects enzyme activity and genetic modification, nephrotoxic, memory loss, immune system toxicity, decrease in IQ, genotoxic, and decreased fertility Thermostats, sensors, monitors, cells, printed circuit boards, and cold cathode ?uorescent lamps Air, vapor, water, soil, and food (bioaccumulative in ?sh) Inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact
Chromium (Cr) Carcinogenic, genotoxic, mutagenetic, ovotoxic, lung function, allergic reaction and contact dermatitis, glycometabolism, and reproductive developmental anomalies Printed circuit boards, cathode ray tubes, lightbulbs, televisions, pigment, and batteries Air, dust, water, and soil Inhalation and ingestion
Tab.1  Chemical classi?cation of e-waste components and sources and routes of exposure
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