Exposure to Flame Retardants in Electronics Recycling Sites

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) contains various hazardous substances such as flame retardants (FRs). Inhalation exposures to many FRs simultaneously among WEEE recycling site workers have been little studied previously. The breathing zone airborne concentrations of five brominated FR compounds tetrabromobisphenol-A (TBBP-A), decabromodiphenylethane (DBDPE), hexabromocyclododecane, 1,2-bis(2,4,6-tribromophenoxy)ethane, hexabromobenzene, and one chlorinated FR (Dechlorane Plus) were measured at four electronics recycling sites in two consecutive years. In addition, concentrations of polybrominated di-Ph ethers (PBDEs) and polybrominated biphenyls were measured. The three most abundant FRs in personal air samples were PBDEs (comprising mostly of deca-BDE), TBBP-A, and DBDPE, with mean concentrations ranging from 21 to 2320 ng m-3, from 8.7 to 430 ng m-3, and from 3.5 to 360 ng m-3, respectively. At two of the sites, the emission control actions (such as improvements in ventilation and its maintenance and changes in cleaning habits) proved successful, the mean levels of FRs in personal samples being 10-68 and 14-79% of those from the previous year or alternatively below the limit of quantification. At the two remaining sites, the reductions in FR exposures were less consistent. The concentrations reported may pose a health hazard to the workers, although evaluation of the association between FR exposure and adverse health effects is hampered by lacking occupational exposure limits. The authors concluded that based on the findings, the exposures should be minimised by adequate control measures and maintaining good occupational hygiene practice.

Authors: Rosenberg, Christina; Haemeilae, Mervi; Tornaeus, Jarkko; Saekkinen, Kirsi; Puttonen, Katriina; Korpi, Anne; Kiilunen, Mirja; Linnainmaa, Markku; Hesso, Antti ;Full Source: Annals of Occupational Hygiene 2011, 55(6), 658-665 (Eng) ;