Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2016 Jan 19;13(1):140. doi: 10.3390/ijerph13010140.
Electronic waste (e-waste) is a growing occupational and environmental health issue around the globe. E-waste recycling is a green industry of emerging importance, especially in low-and middle-income countries where much of this recycling work is performed, and where many people’s livelihoods depend on this work. The occupational health hazards of e-waste recycling have not been adequately explored. We performed a cross-sectional study of noise exposures, heart rate, and perceived stress among e-waste recycling workers at a large e-waste site in Accra, Ghana. We interviewed 57 workers and continuously monitored their individual noise exposures and heart rates for up to 24 h. More than 40% of workers had noise exposures that exceeded recommended occupational (85 dBA) and community (70 dBA) noise exposure limits, and self-reported hearing difficulties were common. Workers also had moderate to high levels of perceived stress as measured via Cohen’s Perceived Stress Scale, and reported a variety of symptoms that could indicate cardiovascular disease. Noise exposures were moderately and significantly correlated with heart rate (Spearman’s ρ 0.46, p < 0.001). A mixed effects linear regression model indicated that a 1 dB increase in noise exposure was associated with a 0.17 increase in heart rate (p-value = 0.01) even after controlling for work activities, age, smoking, perceived stress, and unfavorable physical working conditions. These findings suggest that occupational and non-occupational noise exposure is associated with elevations in average heart rate, which may in turn predict potential cardiovascular damage.