262323 Pilot investigation of California e-waste recycling facilities: Potential hazards and practical solutions

Monday, October 29, 2012 : 10:30 AM - 10:50 AM

Cora Hoover, MD, MPH , Preventive Medicine Residency Program/ CDPH Occupational Health Branch, California Department of Public Health, Richmond, CA
Dennis Shusterman, MD, MPH , Hazard Evaluation Section and Information Service, Occupational Health Branch, California Department of Public Health, Richmond, CA
Jennifer McNary, MPH, CIH , Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service, Occupational Health, California Department of Public Health, Richmond, CA
Background and Objectives: Electronic waste recycling is a growing industry currently employing approximately 5000 workers in the state of California. The current state and federal regulatory environments will lead to increased domestic processing of electronic waste. Our study sought to characterize the potential health risks associated with electronic waste recycling as well as best practices for preventing illness and injury.

Methods: We visited six electronic waste recycling facilities in California. We observed work processes, interviewed workers and managers, and reviewed occupational exposure and biomonitoring results and health and safety program documentation.

Results: Workers involved in electronics disassembly, shredding, and upgrading face health risks due to exposures to materials contained in electronic components, as well as specific work processes. Materials posing risks include lead, mercury, beryllium, cadmium, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Other health hazards include noise and injuries. Potential hazards can be mitigated by a number of strategies, including improved ventilation and work station setup, improved sorting of components so toxic materials are not shredded, and improved training concerning disassembly of components such as cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors. For hazards that cannot be contained, increased provision/use of personal protective equipment and increased use of biomonitoring to track exposures are also recommended. A fact sheet for workers and employers was developed to communicate these recommendations.

Conclusions: The electronic waste recycling industry in California is a growing sector, subject to multiple regulatory standards. By adopting best work practices, the industry may further ameliorate hazards and prevent illness and injury.

Learning Areas:
Advocacy for health and health education
Occupational health and safety
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Describe potential occupational health risks faced by workers in California's e-waste recycling industry. Identify educational messages for workers and employers concerning these risks.

Keywords: Occupational Health, Lead

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a family physician and preventive medicine resident (receiving extra training in general public health) who worked with CDPH Occupational Health Branch personnel to investigate occupational health hazards in the e-waste recycling industry.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.