Importance of Toxicology to Disease Prevention—2012 Session on E-Waste Recycling

The SOT Disease Prevention Task Force sponsored and supported the videotaping of the 2012 SOT Annual Meeting session, “Global Health and Environmental Impacts of E-Waste Recycling," which illustrates the important role of toxicology in disease prevention. SOT is committed to communicating the contributions of toxicology in disease prevention to policy makers, politicians, and the general public. There is no quick fix to this issue, however, a greater emphasis in highlighting the importance of prevention in the science of toxicology, and the presentation of this science to other stakeholders, will better position SOT and toxicology in general, as a central component of discussions establishing societal priorities for safety and preservation of health.

An abstract summary of this session and the presentations are below:

Communicating electronically is considered inherently green because it reduces paper waste and its associated transit. Rapid innovation has produced a constantly growing inventory of outdated electronic equipment that is eventually disposed of as electronic waste, or e-waste. Concerns about contamination from e-waste have led to bans from local landfills and the development of a new e-waste recycling industry to reclaim valuable metals and ideally manage the release of hazardous materials. The current production of e-waste overwhelms local recycling sites and e-waste is sometimes exported along with donations of usable electronics to developing countries, where workers often lack the technology and training to dispose safely of e-waste. Informal recycling releases heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants into the soil, water, and air. Global efforts to reduce damage caused by e-waste include the Basel Treaty, which aims to reduce exports of e-waste to developing countries. Efforts to quantify the hazardous components of e-waste are underway in California, where high levels of brominated flame retardants have been found in residents and wildlife. Although the toxicology of many e-waste components is well characterized, some newer materials, such as gallium and indium arsenides found in newer semiconductors, are less well understood. Their incorporation into nanomaterials may increase bioavailability in unanticipated ways. Developing children and fetuses may be particularly vulnerable to toxins found in e-waste, and early epidemiological studies near informal e-waste recycling sites indicate potential developmental neurotoxicity. Understanding the hazards of e-waste, the impacts of its disposal, and the dangers of informal or careless recycling will help reduce or prevent disease outcomes associated with exposure to e-waste components.

Global Health and Environmental Impacts of E-Waste Recycling-Introduction (video)
Presenter: Erica L. Dahl

The Scope of the Problem—International Regulation and the Basel Treaty (video)
Presenter: Oluwasanmi O.  Areola

Regulated and Unregulated Contaminants in California Waste Streams (video)
Presenter: Myrto Petreas

Mechanisms of III–IV Semiconductor Toxicity—Prospects for the Future of E-Waste Disease Prevention (video)
Presenter: Bruce Fowler

E-Waste Recycling in Developing Countries: Concerns of Developmental Toxicity (video)
Presenter: Amin Chen



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