Illegal import and improper recycling of electronic waste (e-waste) are an environmental issue in developing countries around the world. African countries are no exception to this problem and the Agbogbloshie market in Accra, Ghana is a well-known e-waste recycling site. We have studied the levels of metal(loid)s in the mixtures of residual ash, formed by the burning of e-waste, and the cover soil, obtained using a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (P-XRF) coupled with determination of the 1M HCl-extractable fraction by an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer. The accuracy and precision of the P-XRF measurements were evaluated by measuring 18 standard reference materials; this indicated the acceptable but limited quality of this method as a screening tool. The HCl-extractable levels of Al, Co, Cu, Zn, Cd, In, Sb, Ba, and Pb in 10 soil/ash mixtures varied by more than one order of magnitude. The levels of these metal(loid)s were found to be correlated with the color (i.e., soil/ash ratio), suggesting that they are being released from disposed e-waste via open burning. The source of rare elements could be constrained using correlation to the predominant metals. Human hazard quotient values based on ingestion of soil/ash mixtures exceeded unity for Pb, As, Sb, and Cu in a high-exposure scenario. This study showed that along with common metals, rare metal(loid)s are also enriched in the e-waste burning site. We suggest that risk assessment considering exposure to multiple metal(loid)s should be addressed in studies of e-waste recycling sites.
- Sci Total Environ. 2014 Feb 1;470-471:707-16
Area of intervention
- Informal Sector
- Health Impact
- Western Africa