Impact of informal electronic waste recycling on metal concentrations in soils and dusts

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Abstract

Electronic and electrical equipment contains over 1000 different substances, including metals. During informal e-waste recycling some of these substances such as metals, are released into the environment causing environmental pollution. This study assessed the impact of different informal e-waste recycling activities (burning, dismantling, and repairing) on metal concentrations in top soils and various dust.

A comparative cross-sectional study design was adopted to assess metal concentrations in top soils and in various dust samples from multiple e-waste recycling sites. Metal concentrations at e-waste recycling sites were compared to the concentrations at control sites in three study locations in Nigeria (Lagos, Ibadan, and Aba). In the three study locations, mean metal concentrations at the e-waste recycling sites exceeded the concentrations at the control sites and the Nigerian standard guideline values by 100 s to 1000 s times. Burning sites showed the highest pollution level, followed by dismantling sites, then repair sites.

Our findings show serious environmental and public health concerns. The metal concentrations were also higher than levels reported in other studies at the same locations in Nigeria, indicating that the situation is worsening. This study provides scientific evidence for an urgent need to develop effective strategies to strengthen enforcement of existing e-waste regulations in Nigeria.

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