Environmental contamination from electronic waste recycling at Guiyu, southeast China

Anna Oi Wah LEUNG, Zongwei CAI, Ming Hung WONG*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

332 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-33
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Material Cycles and Waste Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Mechanics of Materials

User-Defined Keywords

  • E-waste
  • Heavy metals
  • PAHs
  • PBDEs
  • PCBs
  • PCDD/Fs


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