Study of the influencing factors of the blood levels of toxic elements in Africans from 16 countries

Environ Pollut. 2017 Nov;230:817-828. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2017.07.036. Epub 2017 Jul 19.


Africa's economy is growing faster than any other continent and it has been estimated that the middle class in Africa now exceeds 350 million people. This has meant a parallel increase in the importation of consumer goods and in the implementation of communication and information technologies (ICT), but also in the generation of large quantities of e-waste. However, inadequate infrastructure development remains a major constraint to the continent's economic growth and these highly toxic residues are not always adequately managed. Few studies have been conducted to date assessing the possible association between socioeconomic development factors, including e-waste generation, and blood levels of inorganic elements in African population. To disclose the role of geographical, anthropogenic, and socioeconomic development determinants on the blood levels of Ag, Al, As, Be, Cd, Co, Cr, Hg, Ni, Pb, Sb, and V -all of them frequently found in e-waste-, an immigrant population-based study was made including a total of 245 subjects from 16 countries recently arrived to the Canary Islands (Spain). Women presented higher levels of blood elements than men, and Northern Africans (Moroccans) were the most contaminated. People from low-income countries exhibited significantly lower blood levels of inorganic elements than those from middle-income countries. We found a significant association between the use of motor vehicles and the implementation of information and communication technologies (ICT) and the level of contamination. Immigrants from the countries with a high volume of imports of second-hand electronic equipment, telephone and internet use had higher levels of inorganic elements. In general terms, the higher level of economic development the higher the blood levels of inorganic pollutants, suggesting that the economic development of Africa, in parallel to e-waste generation and the existence of informal recycling sites, have directly affected the level of contamination of the population of the continent.

Keywords: African countries; Canary islands; Determinants; Heavy metals; Human biomonitoring; Immigrants.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Electronic Waste / statistics & numerical data
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Pollution / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hazardous Substances / blood*
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Poverty
  • Recycling
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spain


  • Hazardous Substances