HBM4EU E-waste study: assessing persistent organic pollutants in blood, silicone wristbands, and settled dust among E-waste recycling workers in Europe

Adam Cseresznye, Emilie M. Hardy, Yu Ait Bamai, Paulien Cleys, Giulia Poma, Govindan Malarvannan, Paul T.J. Scheepers, Susana Viegas, Carla Martins, Simo P. Porras, Tiina Santonen, Lode Godderis, Jelle Verdonck, Katrien Poels, Maria João Silva, Henriqueta Louro, Inese Martinsone, Lāsma Akūlova, Maurice van Dael, An van NieuwenhuyseSelma Mahiout, Radu Corneliu Duca, Adrian Covaci

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1 Citation (Scopus)


E-waste recycling is an increasingly important activity that contributes to reducing the burden of end-of-life electronic and electrical apparatus and allows for the EU's transition to a circular economy. This study investigated the exposure levels of selected persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in workers from e-waste recycling facilities across Europe. The concentrations of seven polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and eight polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) congeners were measured by GC-MS. Workers were categorized into five groups based on the type of e-waste handled and two control groups. Generalized linear models were used to assess the determinants of exposure levels among workers. POPs levels were also assessed in dust and silicone wristbands (SWB) and compared with serum. Four PCB congeners (CB 118, 138, 153, and 180) were frequently detected in serum regardless of worker's category. With the exception of CB 118, all tested PCBs were significantly higher in workers compared to the control group. Controls working in the same company as occupationally exposed (Within control group), also displayed higher levels of serum CB 180 than non-industrial controls with no known exposures to these chemicals (Outwith controls) (p < 0.05). BDE 209 was the most prevalent POP in settled dust (16 μg/g) and SWB (220 ng/WB). Spearman correlation revealed moderate to strong positive correlations between SWB and dust. Increased age and the number of years smoked cigarettes were key determinants for workers exposure. Estimated daily intake through dust ingestion revealed that ΣPCB was higher for both the 50th (0.03 ng/kg bw/day) and 95th (0.09 ng/kg bw/day) percentile exposure scenarios compared to values reported for the general population. This study is one of the first to address the occupational exposure to PCBs and PBDEs in Europe among e-waste workers through biomonitoring combined with analysis of settled dust and SWB. Our findings suggest that e-waste workers may face elevated PCB exposure and that appropriate exposure assessments are needed to establish effective mitigation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118537
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2024


  • Biomonitoring
  • e-waste
  • Europe
  • Occupational exposure
  • PBDEs
  • PCBs


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