Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scientists concerned about environmental impact of recycling of e-waste

27.08.2010
Much of the world’s electronic waste is being shipped to China for recycling and the cottage industry that has sprung up there to recover usable materials from computers, cell phones, televisions and other goods may be creating significant health and environmental hazards.

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!
Further information:
http://oregonstate.edu

Further reports about: Atmospheric Atmospheric Sciences Chinese herbs Oceanic Science TV

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Global threat to primates concerns us all
19.01.2017 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung

nachricht Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>