A review of environmental fate, body burdens, and human health risk assessment of PCDD/Fs at two typical electronic waste recycling sites in China

Sci Total Environ. 2013 Oct 1;463-464:1111-23. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2012.07.098. Epub 2012 Aug 25.


This paper reviews the levels of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs) in different environmental media, human body burdens and health risk assessment results at e-waste recycling sites in China. To provide an indication of the seriousness of the pollution levels in the e-waste recycling sites in China, the data are compared with guidelines and available existing data for other areas. The comparison clearly shows that PCDD/Fs derived from the recycling processes lead to serious pollution in different environmental compartments (such as air, soil, sediment, dust and biota) and heavy body burdens. Of all kinds of e-waste recycling operations, open burning of e-waste and acid leaching activities are identified as the major sources of PCDD/Fs. Deriving from the published data, the estimated total exposure doses via dietary intake, inhalation, soil/dust ingestion and dermal contact are calculated for adults, children and breast-fed infants living in two major e-waste processing locations in China. The values ranged from 5.59 to 105.16 pg WHO-TEQ/kg bw/day, exceeding the tolerable daily intakes recommended by the WHO (1-4 pg WHO-TEQ/kg bw/day). Dietary intake is the most important exposure route for infants, children and adults living in these sites, contributing 60-99% of the total intakes. Inhalation is the second major exposure route, accounted for 12-30% of the total exposure doses of children and adults. In order to protect the environment and human health, there is an urgent need to control and monitor the informal e-waste recycling operations. Knowledge gaps, such as comprehensive dietary exposure data, epidemiological and clinical studies, body burdens of infants and children, and kinetics about PCDD/Fs partitions among different human tissues should be addressed.

Keywords: Body burden; China; Electronic waste recycling; Health risk assessment; Polychlorinated dioxins and furans.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Benzofurans / adverse effects
  • Benzofurans / analysis*
  • Body Burden
  • China
  • Electrical Equipment and Supplies / adverse effects
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Environmental Pollutants / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / adverse effects
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / analogs & derivatives*
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins / analysis
  • Recycling*
  • Refuse Disposal
  • Risk Assessment
  • Waste Disposal Facilities*


  • Benzofurans
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Polychlorinated Dibenzodioxins
  • dibenzofuran