The recycling of computer printed circuit boards is one of the main recycling activities carried out in Guiyu, a traditionally rice growing community that has been the focus of international interest in recent years because of the sheer volume of e-waste that is being processed (‘recycled’) by primitive and crude methods. In small family-run workshops, printed circuit boards are heated over makeshift grills fuelled by coal blocks to melt solder and to remove reusable electrical components which are then sold. During the heating process, pungent and potentially toxic fumes are released and fans placed in front of the grills are the only precautionary measures used to exhaust the fumes (from inside the workshops to outdoors) and reduce exposure to the fumes. Brominated flame retardants such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are commonly applied on electrical and electronic equipment and since PBDEs are additive and not chemically bound to their products, they may be leached into the environment under elevated temperatures1. PBDEs are available as three different types of technical mixtures, namely Penta-BDE, Octa-BDE, and Deca-BDE. Due to health risks, such as thyroid hormone disruption and neurodevelopmental deficits, Penta-BDE and Octa-BDE have been banned within the EU since August 2004 and are being phased out in several states of the United States since January 1, 20062, 3. The Directive on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment (RoHS) (Directive 2002/95/EC) prohibits the use of Penta-BDE and Octa-BDE which exceed set maximum concentration values in new electrical and electronic products that enter the EU market after July 1, 20064. Deca-BDE is currently the most widely used commercial PBDE flame retardant5. A Swiss study reported that printed circuit boards contain Penta-BDE, Octa-BDE and Deca-BDE6. To date, there is very little information about PBDE levels in dust, particularly at an e-waste hotspot. Henceforth, the objectives of this study were to conduct a reconnaissance survey of the PBDE levels of surface dust collected from a printed circuit board recycling workshop and nearby roads in the e-waste recycling centre of Guiyu, China, and also to investigate the dust PBDE congener profiles.
|Publication status||Published - 2008|