Int J Occup Environ Med. 2020 Apr;11(2):72-84. doi: 10.34172/ijoem.2020.1826.
BACKGROUND: Informal electronic waste (e-waste) recycling is an increasingly important industry worldwide. However, few studies have studied the health risks in this group of workers.
OBJECTIVE: To assess the associations between occupational exposures to metals and genetic instability and renal markers among e-waste recycling workers.
METHODS: We recruited informal e-waste recycling workers from a community in northeastern Thailand. Participants completed a questionnaire, several health measurements, and provided urine and blood samples, which we then analyzed for a number of metals including lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), and manganese (Mn). Samples were analyzed for a marker of RNA and DNA damage (ie, oxidative stress), 8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG). Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and fractional excretion of calcium (FECa%) were measured as markers of renal function. Correlations and regression models were used to assess associations between these various factors.
RESULTS: We found significantly higher levels of Cd and Pb in blood of men compared with those in women. Men who worked >48 hours/week had significantly higher levels of 8-OHdG compared with men who worked ≤48 hours/week. Smoking was significantly associated with higher blood Pb and Cd concentrations among men.
CONCLUSION: Our results suggest gender differences in both blood concentrations of metals associated with e-waste recycling and smoking and highlight potentially elevated oxidative stress associated with longer work hours. Health promotion efforts are needed among informal e-waste recyclers to reduce possible risks of renal damage and cancer.