With China now the destination for 70 percent of the computers, TVs, cell phones, and other electronic waste (e-waste) recycled worldwide each year, a new study has concluded that Chinese recycling methods significantly increase dioxin levels in women and their breast-fed infants.
Ming H. Wong and colleagues did one of what they describe as "very few" studies of dioxin levels among women of child bearing age at an e-waste recycling site, and compared those levels to women in an area without e-waste recycling.
They analyzed levels of dioxins - compounds linked to cancer, developmental defects, and other health problems - in samples of breast milk, placenta, and hair.
Samples from the e-waste site showed significantly higher levels of dioxins than those taken at the reference site. Researchers estimated that the daily intake of infants from 6 months of breast feeding at the recycling site was more than double that of the reference site.
Therefore, this implies that these levels at the recycling site and the reference site were at least 25 times and 11 times higher, respectively, than the World Health Organization tolerable daily limit for adults regarding dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs.
The study includes descriptions of recycling methods, which include heating scrap electronic components over coal fires in the open air.
The study "Body Loadings and Health Risk Assessment of Polychlorinated Dibenzo-p-dioxins and Dibenzofurans at an Intensive Electronic Waste Recycling Site in China" is scheduled for the Nov. 15 issue of ACS' Environmental Science & Technology,.
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