Many electronic recycling companies put workers, environment at risk

Companies need to better protect workers and the environment from exposure to heavy metals and toxic chemicals generated during the recycling of electronics such as computers, printers, TVs, cameras, and batteries, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers.

“This industry [e-recycling] is fairly new and struggles, like many other small- to medium-size enterprises, to keep up with health and safety demands,” said Diana Ceballos, visiting scientist in the Department of Environmental Health and JPB Environmental Fellow at Harvard Chan School, in a September 9, 2016 E-Scrap News article. “This is compounded by the outdated occupational legislation to guide the control of chemical hazards.”

A recent paper by Ceballos and Zhao Dong, research associate in the Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment, reviewed e-recycling research from around the world and found that worker exposures to harmful substances like flame retardants often exceeded recommended guidelines, and that chemicals in air, dust, and soil near the plants often were elevated.

Read the E-Scrap News article: Q&A: Why worker safety is an increasingly complex issue

Learn more

Formal E-Recycling: The Complexity of Solving the E-waste Problem Worldwide (Harvard Chan’s Hoffman Program on Chemicals and Health blog)