Nav: Home

Human health effects of 'e-waste' focus of international research study

November 18, 2010

CINCINNATI--A new international population study, led by the University of Cincinnati, will be the first to examine the human developmental effects of environmental exposure to the complex metal mixture found in electronic waste (e-waste).

UC epidemiologist Aimin Chen, MD, PhD, says research on the effects of complex metal and organic pollutant mixtures in e-waste is urgently needed in order to avoid unnecessary health risks to vulnerable populations from exposure to toxic air, soil and water.

Chen and his team recently received a competitive $1.7 million National Institutes of Health grant to conduct a population-based study aimed at determining how exposure to this complex e-waste toxicant mixture impacts human health.

E-waste includes a mixture of many chemicals that cause known adverse health effects alone: lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Inappropriate handing of e-waste, such as burning, may produce polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins and furans. It is estimated that 20 to 50 million tons of this potentially toxic trash--computers, cell phones, televisions, keyboards, printers and other electronic devices--are produced worldwide annually, much of it ending up in landfills or being improperly recycled.

UC researchers believe pregnant women--and more specifically their growing fetuses and young children--living in developing countries where primitive and informal e-waste recycling occurs are at increased risk for neurotoxicity.

"Because the brain is in a state of rapid development, the blood-brain barrier in infants and young children is not as effective as in adults, and neurotoxic substances--like heavy metals--can cause developmental damage," explains Chen.

For this new research study, UC has partnered with Shantou University in China to recruit about 600 pregnant women living in recycling and non-recycling communities in China to track neurological development of the fetus during gestation and through the first year of life. The selected recycling communities have a 15-year history of primitive, informal e-waste recycling activity. Mothers will be asked to give blood, hair and urine samples before 28 weeks of gestation and cord blood upon delivery.

Chen and his colleagues recently conducted a review to thoroughly identify toxicants found in e-waste and their potential harmful effects to brain development. The study benchmarks current knowledge of e-waste toxicant mixtures and identifies potential preventative measures to reduce human exposures. The team reports its findings and recommended actions online ahead of print on Nov. 15, 2010, in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Chen says universal restrictions on disposal of e-waste do not exist. In the U.S., there are no legally enforceable federal policies to regulate e-waste--only a patchwork of legislation in about half of the states. The European Union has federal legislation restricting e-waste disposal and putting much of this responsibility on the device manufacturers.

"In countries where primitive recycling processes exist, human health--especially children's health--should drive regulation and management of recycling activities," says Chen. "Restricting the use of toxic chemicals in manufacturing electronic devices would help prevent exposures. More effective environmental regulations in e-waste management are also critically needed."

"Exposure to this type of metal mixture and persistent organic pollutants is truly unprecedented," adds Shuk-mei Ho, PhD, professor and Jacob G. Schmidlapp chair of UC's environmental health department and study collaborator. "We need a better understanding of the human health effects of mixture exposure in order to develop effective measures to protect the people who are most at risk."
-end-


University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center

Related Health Articles:

Public health guidelines aim to lower health risks of cannabis use
Canada's Lower-Risk Cannabis Use Guidelines, released today with the endorsement of key medical and public health organizations, provide 10 science-based recommendations to enable cannabis users to reduce their health risks.
Generous health insurance plans encourage overtreatment, but may not improve health
Offering comprehensive health insurance plans with low deductibles and co-pay in exchange for higher annual premiums seems like a good value for the risk averse, and a profitable product for insurance companies.
The Lancet Planetary Health: Food, climate, greenhouse gas emissions and health
Increasing temperatures, water scarcity, availability of agricultural land, biodiversity loss and climate change threaten to reverse health gains seen over the last century.
With health insurance at risk, community health centers face cut-backs
Repeal of key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, combined with a failure to renew critical funding streams, would result in catastrophic funding losses for community health centers-forcing these safety net providers to cut back on services, lay off staff or shut down clinical sites, according to a report published today.
Study clusters health behavior groups to broaden public health interventions
A new study led by a University of Kansas researcher has used national health statistics and identified how to cluster seven health behavior groups based on smoking status, alcohol use, physical activity, physician visits and flu vaccination are associated with mortality.
Tailored preventive oral health intervention improves dental health among elderly
A tailored preventive oral health intervention significantly improved the cleanliness of teeth and dentures among elderly home care clients.
Study finds that people are attracted to outward signs of health, not actual health
Findings published in the journal Behavioral Ecology reveal that skin with yellow and red pigments is perceived as more attractive in Caucasian males, but this skin coloring does not necessarily signal actual good health.
In the January Health Affairs: Brazil's primary health care expansion
The January issue of Health Affairs includes a study that explores a much-discussed issue in global health: the role of governance in improving health, which is widely recognized as necessary but is difficult to tie to actual outcomes.
University of Rochester and West Health Collaborate on d.health Summit 2017
In collaboration with West Health, the University of Rochester is hosting the third annual d.health Summit, a forum for health care and technology leaders, entrepreneurs, senior care advocates and policymakers to exchange ideas, create new partnerships, and foster disruptive technological and process innovations to improve the lives of the nation's aging population.
Study links health literacy to higher levels of health insurance coverage
The federal Affordable Care Act is intended to make it easier for individuals to buy health insurance, but are the uninsured equipped to navigate the choices faced in the insurance marketplace?

Related Health Reading:

Physical Examination and Health Assessment
by Carolyn Jarvis PhD APN CNP (Author)

How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease
by Michael Greger M.D. (Author), Gene Stone (Author)

Health Psychology: A Biopsychosocial Approach
by Richard O. Straub (Author)

Laboratory Manual for Physical Examination & Health Assessment
by Carolyn Jarvis PhD APN CNP (Author)

Introduction to Public Health
by Mary-Jane Schneider (Author)

Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing: Concepts of Care in Evidence-Based Practice
by Mary C. Townsend DSN PMHCNS-BC (Author), Karyn I. Morgan RN MSN APRN CNS (Author)

An Introduction to Community & Public Health
by James F. McKenzie (Author), Robert R. Pinger (Author), Denise Seabert (Author)

Health: The Basics (13th Edition)
by Rebecca J. Donatelle (Author)

Public Health Nursing: Population-Centered Health Care in the Community
by Marcia Stanhope RN DSN FAAN (Author), Jeanette Lancaster RN PhD FAAN (Author)

Health Psychology
by Shelley E Taylor Distinguished Professor (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Approaching With Kindness
We often forget to say the words "thank you." But can those two words change how you — and those around you — look at the world? This hour, TED speakers on the power of gratitude and appreciation. Guests include author AJ Jacobs, author and former baseball player Mike Robbins, Dr. Laura Trice, Professor of Management Christine Porath, and former Danish politician Özlem Cekic.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#509 Anisogamy: The Beginning of Male and Female
This week we discuss how the sperm and egg came to be, and how a difference of reproductive interest has led to sexual conflict in bed bugs. We'll be speaking with Dr. Geoff Parker, an evolutionary biologist credited with developing a theory to explain the evolution of two sexes, about anisogamy, sexual reproduction through the fusion of two different gametes: the egg and the sperm. Then we'll speak with Dr. Roberto Pereira, research scientist in urban entomology at the University of Florida, about traumatic insemination in bed bugs.