Am J Ind Med. 2021 May;64(5):381-397. doi: 10.1002/ajim.23229. Epub 2021 Feb 1.
BACKGROUND: Informal sector electronic waste (e-waste) recovery produces toxic emissions resulting from burning e-waste to recover valuable metals.
OBJECTIVES: To identify high-risk worker groups by measuring relative levels of personal inhalation exposure to particulate matter (PM) of fine (≤2.5 µm) and coarse (2.5-10 µm) fractions (PM2.5 and PM2.5-10, respectively) across work activities among e-waste workers, and to assess how wind conditions modify levels of PM by activity and site location.
METHODS: At the Agbogbloshie e-waste site, 170 partial-shift PM samples and time-activity data were collected from participants (N = 105) enrolled in the GeoHealth cohort study. Personal sampling included continuous measures of size-specific PM from the worker’s breathing zone and time-activity derived from wearable cameras. Linear mixed models were used to estimate changes in personal PM2.5 and PM2.5-10 associated with activities and evaluate effect modification by wind conditions.
RESULTS: Mean (±standard deviation) personal PM2.5 and PM2.5-10 concentrations were 80 (± 81) and 123 (± 139) µg m-3 , respectively. The adjusted mean PM2.5 concentration for burning e-waste was 88 µg m-3 , a 28% increase above concentrations during non-recovery activities (such as eating). Transportation-related and burning activities were associated with the highest PM2.5-10 concentrations. Frequent changes in wind direction were associated with higher PM2.5 concentrations when burning, and high wind speeds with higher PM2.5-10 concentrations when dismantling e-waste downwind of the burning zone.