Scientists from China and the United States have identified numerous toxic elements in the emissions from an e-waste recycling workshop in southern China, which uses low-tech methods to separate reusable electronic components from the circuit boards. It is not an isolated case, the scientists point out; such methods are used all over China.
Results of their study have been published in the journal Atmospheric Environment.
“The most immediate problem is the health of the workers and the people who live in the city,” said Bernd R.T. Simoneit, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University and one of the authors of the study. “But this may also be contributing to global contamination. For example, previous studies have found carcinogens in wind-carried dust from Asia.”
Simoneit is a widely published scientist who has been involved in numerous studies identifying chemical “signatures” for emissions, including coal smoke, biomass burning, petroleum-based fuels and even the burning of municipal refuse. By using mass spectrometers and other sophisticated instrumentation, the researchers can pinpoint the contributions of specific emissions to the atmosphere.
Their work in China was conducted in Shantou City, a town of 150,000 people located in southern China’s Guangdong Province. They collected samples during four working days, when workers were removing the electronic components by heating the circuit boards over grills on stoves burning coal briquettes.
The workshop had 24 stoves along three walls, and an estimated five tons of circuit boards stacked along the fourth wall for processing. Workers would use the grills to melt the solder, and then remove reusable portions of the circuitry.
The research team included five Chinese scientists and Simoneit, who has dual appointments in OSU’s College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences and the Department of Chemistry. The researchers found that through this “roasting process,” numerous organic chemicals, heavy metals, flame retardants and persistent organic pollutants (or POPs) were emitted into the air via the smoke. The chemical signature created by this process of roasting or toasting circuit boards “is unmistakable.”
“The next step is to see to what extent this is harming the environment and creating a health hazard for both the workers, and people living in the path of the emissions – either through inhalation, or exposure to the skin,” Simoneit said. “Some of these chemical compounds may be carcinogens; others may be just as harmful because they can act as ‘environmental disruptors’ and may affect body processes from reproduction to endocrine function.”
The Chinese authors of the study are affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and include lead author Xinhui Bi, with ZhenZhen Wang, Xinming Wang, Guoying Sheng and Jiamo Fu.
Simoneit also is working with scientists in India to identify chemical signatures from the burning of wire and other materials, which is done to recycle copper and other minerals. And he is working in Saudi Arabia on a different problem – helping develop “green chemistry” methods for recycling that country’s massive urban waste to create methane.
About the OSU College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences: COAS is internationally recognized for its faculty, research and facilities, including state-of-the-art computing infrastructure to support real-time ocean/atmosphere observation and prediction. The college is a leader in the study of the Earth as an integrated system, providing scientific understanding to address complex environmental challenges.
Bernd Simoneit | EurekAlert!
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
24.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences