E-waste: A concise update on global movement, impacts, management, and site remediation

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The rapid rise of electronic waste (e-waste) worldwide has become a public health concern. Wealthy countries are disposing of their e-waste to other countries taking advantage of their less stringent environmental laws and regulations. China used to receive large amounts of e-waste through Hong Kong (a free port) but banned the entry of e-waste in 2013. Salvaging or recycling different parts of the e-waste using primitive and uncontrolled techniques generated a wide range of toxic chemicals (mainly heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants). Most studies concerning the environmental and health impacts of the emitted toxic chemicals were conducted in China. The principal aim of this short article is to review the various environmental problems and health impacts of e-waste recycling, policies, management, and remediation of contaminated sites. Out of the primitive methods used for recycling, the two most destructive ones causing harm to the environment and human health are (1) Open-burning of e-waste for disposing of the salvaged e-waste and (2) Acid-stripping of electronic boards for collecting precious metals (gold, silver, platinum). There is sufficient evidence showing the associations between the toxic chemicals in different media (i.e., water, soil/sediment, air) and local food items (i.e., fish, meat, vegetables), linking with body burdens (hair, milk, placenta) of workers and residents. The epidemiological data further demonstrated the abrupt rise of several significant diseases (i.e., respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, malignant tumors) in Taizhou (China), one of the two e-waste recycling sites. Effective policies and vigorous enforcement in managing e-waste are essential. International cooperation is necessary to prohibit the transboundary movement of e-waste. Sites contaminated by e-waste recycling contain incredibly high concentrations of toxic pollutants, which should be removed using excavation, degradation (via microbes, nanoparticles, biochar), soil washing, etc. Planting appropriate plants with associated rhizospheric microbes would achieve longer-term stability. Copyright © 2023 The Author.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberES0208
JournalRussian Journal of Earth Sciences
Issue number5
Early online dateNov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


Wong, M. H. (2024). E-waste: A concise update on global movement, impacts, management, and site remediation. Russian Journal of Earth Sciences, 23(5), Article ES0208. https://doi.org/10.2205/2023ES02SI08


  • Ecological and human health
  • Open burning
  • Persistent toxic substances
  • Primitive recycling techniques


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