Human and Environmental Impact Producted by E-waste Releases at Guiyu Region (China)

Nicoleta Suciu, Marco Trevisan, Ettore Capri, Taku Tanaka, Henning Tien, Susanne Heise, Marta Schuhmacher, Martin Nadal, Juachim Roveira, Xavier Segui, Juachim Casal, Rosa Mari Darbra

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Over the last decades, the amount of electronic waste (e-waste) has increased rapidly in the world. It has become one of the emerging problems of the twenty-first century. About 50–80% of e-waste from industrialized countries is exported to recycling centers in developing countries such as China, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines because of the lower wages for labor and less strict environmental and safety regulations in these countries. China, however, due to its size and population not only receives enormous quantities of used devices from developed countries but also generates tremendous amounts of domestic e-waste due to its fast consumption rates of electrical and electronic (EE) products. Guiyu, a town in the Guangdong Province in the southeast of China, was identified as the largest e-waste site in the world and the second most polluted spot, due to informal recycling processes (acid extraction for metals, open burning of wires to get copper), which release chemicals to the environment, representing a threat to human health, both to “recyclers” and to nearby citizens, and the environment. Measured data on environmental concentrations and human health are scarce and scattered. Hence, environmental modeling was applied in order to generate an overview over the distribution of selected hazardous substances due to informal recycling in Guiyu. As all available models have a specific focus and various pros and cons, four models were chosen, which cover different geographical scales and address different environmental compartments and objectives in order to assess the potential risk of the selected chemicals to humans and the environment. These models have been applied to different scenarios, mainly for two chemicals, decabromodiphenyl ether (DeBDE) and lead (Pb). Emissions of DeBDE and Pb that represent the input to the models are based on the SFA (Substance Flow Analysis) developed for Guiyu presented in the chapter “Tracking Global Flows of E-Waste Additives by Using Substance Flow Analysis, With a Case Study in China.” In this chapter the results of the four models are presented and compared among them. The impact of the selected chemicals for the environment and human health at Guiyu region has been assessed on different scales, i.e., on a global, regional, and local scales.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal Risk-Based Management of Chemical Additives II: Risk-Based Assessment and Management Strategies
EditorsB Bilitewski, D Barcelo, R M Darbra
Number of pages37
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • e-waste
  • human health


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