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Flame Retardant Chemicals & Human Health Risks in eWaste Recycling

Flame Retardant Chemicals & Human Health Risks in Recycling

22 February 2019

The NIOSH Center for Disease Control (CDC) published an article in the March 2019 Chemosphere Journal indicating that a single wipe on the skin of workers in the electronic recycling industry for flame retardant chemicals was inconsistent in removing the contaminant load on workers’ hands. This find indicates that more than one wipe is necessary to determine the total amount of flame-retardant chemicals present on the skin.

Flame retardant chemicals are used in many electronic products to slow or prevent fires from starting in electronic equipment. Worker exposure can occur during the manufacturing process but also in the growing recycling sector when workers handle the equipment during the recycling process. When products are recycled, they are often dismantled to recover precious and rare earth metals which can release flame retardants into the air. From the air, they can settle on work surfaces and contribute to potential dermal exposures. 

Flame retardant chemicals have been associated with disorders of the endocrine system (the series of hormone producing/secreting glands that regulate the activity of cells and organs e.g. growth, metabolism, sexual development), reproductive toxicity and immunological interference. 

Under the Workplace Health and Safety Regulations, employers have an obligation to assess and control risk to acceptable levels.

Greencap's Occupational Hygiene and Toxicology team assist clients with the identification, assessment and control of risk to workers from exposure to flame retardants and some of the metals associated with the recycling of electronic equipment including lead and mercury. 


To speak with a member of Greencap’s team, contact the office in your region.


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