Study examines impact of e-waste on human development

25 Nov 2010

A study that plans to investigate whether electronic waste (e-waste) has harmful effects on human development is under way.

The study, being undertaken by the University of Cincinnati, US, and Shantou University, China, will examine the potential harmful effects environmental exposure to e-waste can have on human beings’ development.

One of the researchers’ main aims is to focus the study on pregnant women. The researchers believe that women during pregnancy, but more specifically the foetus, are at particular risk to the potential dangers of e-waste.

Informal e-waste

By examining developing countries where primitive and informal e-waste occurs, US epidemiologist Aimin Chen, MD PhD, told that the subjects in question are at increased risk of neurotoxicity.

Chen says that because the brain is in a state of development during the foetal state, the blood-brain barrier in infants can be ineffective compared to adults – allowing neurotoxic substances, such as the complex metal and organic pollutant mixtures in e-waste – to cause developmental damage.

The study will recruit around 600 pregnant women living in recycling and non-recycling communities in China in order to track neurological development of the foetus – sampling blood, hair and urine samples of the mother prior to and after delivery.