HBM4EU occupational biomonitoring study on e-waste: study protocol

Paul T. J. Scheepers, Radu Corneliu Duca, Karen S. Galea, Lode Godderis, Emilie Hardy, Lisbeth E. Knudsen, Elizabeth Leese, Henriqueta Louro, Selma Mahiout, Sophie Ndaw, Katrien Poels, Simo P. Porras, Maria J. Silva, Ana Maria Tavares, Jelle Verdonck, Susana Viegas, Tiina Santonen, Carla Martins

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Workers involved in the processing of electronic waste (e-waste) are potentially exposed to toxic chemicals. If exposure occurs, this may result in uptake and potential adverse health effects. Thus, exposure surveillance is an important requirement for health risk management and prevention of occupational disease. Human biomonitoring by measurement of specific biomarkers in body fluids is considered as an effective method of exposure surveillance. The aim of this study is to investigate the internal exposure of workers processing e-waste using a human biomonitoring approach, which will stimulate improved work practices and contribute to raising awareness of potential hazards. This exploratory study in occupational exposures in e-waste processing is part of the European Human Biomonitoring Initiative (HBM4EU). Here we present a study protocol using a cross sectional survey design to study worker’s exposures and compare these to the exposure of subjects preferably employed in the same company but with no known exposure to industrial recycling of e-waste. The present study protocol will be applied in six to eight European countries to ensure standardised data collection. The target population size is 300 exposed and 150 controls. Biomarkers of exposure for the following chemicals will be used: chromium, cadmium and lead in blood and urine; brominated flame retardants and polychlorobiphenyls in blood; mercury, organophosphate flame retardants and phthalates in urine, and chromium, cadmium, lead and mercury in hair. In addition, the following effect biomarkers will be studied: micronuclei, epigenetic, oxidative stress, inflammatory markers and telomere length in blood and metabolomics in urine. Occupational hygiene sampling methods (airborne and settled dust, silicon wristbands and handwipes) and contextual information will be collected to facilitate the interpretation of the biomarker results and discuss exposure mitigating.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12987
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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