Informal electronic waste (e-waste) recycling is an increasingly important industry worldwide. However, few studies have studied the health risks in this group of workers.
To assess the associations between occupational exposures to metals and genetic instability and renal markers among e-waste recycling workers.
We recruited informal e-waste recycling workers from a community in northeastern Thailand. Participants completed a questionnaire, several health measurements, and provided urine and blood samples, which we then analyzed for a number of metals including lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), and manganese (Mn). Samples were analyzed for a marker of RNA and DNA damage (ie, oxidative stress), 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG). Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and fractional excretion of calcium (FECa%) were measured as markers of renal function. Correlations and regression models were used to assess associations between these various factors.
We found significantly higher levels of Cd and Pb in blood of men compared with those in women. Men who worked >48 hours/week had significantly higher levels of 8-OHdG compared with men who worked ≤48 hours/week. Smoking was significantly associated with higher blood Pb and Cd concentrations among men.
Our results suggest gender differences in both blood concentrations of metals associated with e-waste recycling and smoking and highlight potentially elevated oxidative stress associated with longer work hours. Health promotion efforts are needed among informal e-waste recyclers to reduce possible risks of renal damage and cancer.
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