||Waste electrical and electronic equipment (e-waste) accounted for an increasing waste
stream, both in growing rate and volume, during the past three decades. The compositions
of e-waste include various metals and organic chemicals (used as plastics and additives
like flame retardants). To recycle and/or reuse these metals or plastics from e-waste,
industrial processes must dismantle, shred, and separate components. Such physical
actions create hazardous exposure to human workers and the environment. This project
was built on literature reviews regarding e-waste management and focuses on the problems
of occupational exposure to toxic components present in e-waste streams. A class of
toxic flame retardants, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), has been chosen. In
this report I provide more definition of the problem and characterize PBDEs in the
e-waste management in Taiwan, where I am from. Based on this information, I propose
recommendations to minimize PBDEs exposure in the e-waste recycling systems.
While shredding e-waste to retrieve materials, PBDEs are released from plastic components
into air, and/or partitioned to atmospheric or dust particles. Workers thus become
a high-risk exposure group from inhalation and ingestion pathways. Due to the ability
of bioaccumulation, PBDEs pose an ongoing threat to exposed individuals. Also of concern
is exposure to children due to the known effects on developmental neurotoxicity. Two
commercial PBDEs, penta- and octa-BDEs, were banned or phased-out from use since 2004.
The third mixture, deca-BDE, is scheduled for phase-out in 2013. Improved worker safety
can reduce occupational exposure. However, dust carried to households of workers can
be transferred to other family members, particularly children. In addition, attention
to women workers of childbearing age can reduce exposure to the most vulnerable individuals.
The Taiwan Environmental Protection Administration (TEPA) mandated e-waste recycling
from 1998. Total of 22 registered facilities handled about 4.25 million e-wastes devices
in 2010. Although Taiwan has reached an average recycling rate of over 50%, the items
on recyclable in Taiwanese regulations represent only a small portion of those in
the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. If worker safety can
be improved, a greater proportion of used components can be recycled. Thus, improving
occupational safety is critical.
Recommendations made in this report include: use of proper personal protective equipment
such as barrier clothing (i.e., aprons, high visibility shirts), dust respirators
(N-95) and fabric gloves, improved workplace ventilation to filter out contaminated
dust, requirement for separated storage lockers for worker protective devices and
clean clothing. In addition, showering prior to donning individual street clothing
and departure for home should be required. Furthermore, the hazardous substance guidelines
in the processing facilities are not strictly framed. Regulated certification and
inspections to ensure compliance auditioning should be performed regularly to prevent
hazards exposure. Monitoring of PBDE levels of workers and in the working place is
essential. With careful attention to the above, worker safety will be enhanced and
exposure minimized while providing a means to recycle valuable materials from e-waste.