Environmental contamination from electronic waste recycling at Guiyu, southeast China

  • Anna Leung
  • Zong Wei Cai
  • Ming Hung WongEmail author


The disposal, recycling, and part salvaging of discarded electronic devices such as computers, printers, televisions, and toys are now creating a new set of waste problems. This study is aimed at identifying the sources and quantifying the pollution levels generated from electronic waste (e-waste) activities at Guiyu, Guangdong Province, China, and their potential impacts on the environment and human health. The preliminary results indicate that total polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in soil obtained from a printer roller dump site was 593 µg/kg dry weight (dry wt.) and in sediment from a duck pond, the PAH concentration was 514 µg/kg (dry wt.). Sediment from the Lianjiang River was found to be contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls (743 µg/kg) at a level approaching three times the Canadian Environmental Quality Guidelines probable effect level of 277 µg/kg. Total mono- to hepta-brominated diphenyl ether homologue concentrations (1140 and 1169 µg/kg dry wt.) in soils near dumping sites were approximately 10–60 times those reported for other polybrominated diphenyl ether-contaminated locations in the world. In-house study on the open burning of cable wires showed extremely high levels of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans resulting in 12419 ng toxic equivalents (TEQ)/kg of waste input and 15 610 ng TEQ/kg for two separate tests, respectively, which were about three orders of magnitude higher than those for the open burning of household waste. High levels of Cu (712, 528, and 496 mg/kg), exceeding the new Dutch list action value, were determined for soil near the printer roller dumping area, sediment from Lianjiang River, and soil from a plastic burn site, respectively. A more thorough study is underway to elucidate the extent of contamination of toxic pollutants in different ecological compartments to establish whether these pollutants are bioaccumulated and biomagnified through food chains. Assessments of human health impacts from oral intake, inhalation, and dermal contact will be subsequently investigated.

Key words

E-waste PAHs PCBs PBDEs PCDD/Fs Heavy metals 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Tokyo 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Croucher Institute for Environmental Sciences and Department of BiologyHong Kong Baptist UniversityHong KongChina
  2. 2.Dioxin LaboratoryHong Kong Baptist UniversityHong KongChina

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