Use of scalp hair as indicator of human exposure to heavy metals in an electronic waste recycling area

Environ Pollut. 2009 Aug-Sep;157(8-9):2445-51. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2009.03.010. Epub 2009 Apr 5.


Scalp hair samples were collected at an electronic waste (e-waste) recycling area and analyzed for trace elements and heavy metals. Elevated levels were found for Cu and Pb with geometric means (GMs) at 39.8 and 49.5 microg/g, and the levels of all elements were found in the rank order Pb > Cu >> Mn > Ba > Cr > Ni > Cd > As > V. Besides Cu and Pb, Cd (GM: 0.518 microg/g) was also found to be significantly higher compared to that in hair samples from control areas. Differences with age, gender, residence status and villages could be distinguished for most of the elements. The high levels of Cd, Cu and Pb were likely found to be originated from e-waste related activities, and specific sources were discussed. This study shows that human scalp hair could be a useful biomarker to assess the extent of heavy metal exposure to workers and residents in areas with intensive e-waste recycling activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • China
  • Electronic Waste / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Hair / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Metals, Heavy / analysis*
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Waste Management


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Metals, Heavy