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Trace metals in e-waste lead to serious health risk through consumption of rice growing near an abandoned e-waste recycling site: Comparisons with PBDEs and AHFRs.


Despite the endeavour to eradicate informal e-waste recycling, remediation of polluted sites is not mandatory in many developing countries and thus the hazard of pollutants remaining in soil is often overlooked. It is noteworthy that a majority of previous studies only analysed a few pollutants in e-waste to reflect the impact of informal e-waste recycling. However, the actual impact may have been largely underestimated since e-waste contains various groups of pollutants and the effect of some emerging pollutants in e-waste remains unexplored. Thus, this study examined the contamination of metals, PBDEs and AHFRs in the vicinity of an abandoned e-waste recycling site. The accumulation and translocation of these pollutants in rice plants cultivated at the nearby paddy field were measured to estimate the health risk through rice consumption. We revealed that the former e-waste burning site was still seriously contaminated with some metals (e.g. Sn, Sb and Ag, I > 5), PBDEs (I > 3) and AHFRs (I > 3), which can disperse to the nearby paddy field and stream. The rice plants can effectively absorb some metals (e.g. Mo, Cr and Mn, BCF > 1), but not PBDEs and AHFRs (BCF < 0.15), from soil and translocate them to the leaves. Alarmingly, the health risk through rice consumption was high primarily due to Sb and Sn (HQ > 20), whereas PBDEs and AHFRs had limited contribution (HQ < 0.08). Our results imply that abandoned e-waste recycling sites still act as the pollution source, jeopardising the surrounding environment and human health. Since some trace metals (e.g. Sb and Sn) are seldom monitored, the impact of informal e-waste recycling would be more notorious than previously thought. Remediation work should be conducted promptly in abandoned e-waste recycling sites to protect the environment and human health. Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.