Does E-Waste Impact Human Development?

A new study being undertaken by the University of Cincinnati and Shantou University in China plans to take a look at the potential harmful effects environmental exposure to e-waste can have on human development. This research is being funded via a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

UC epidemiologist Aimin Chen, MD, PhD, and his associates “believe pregnant women—and more specifically their growing fetuses and young children—living in developing countries where primitive and informal e-waste recycling occurs are at increased risk for neurotoxicity.” The plan is to recruit “about 600 pregnant women living in recycling and non-recycling communities in China to track neurological development of the fetus during gestation and through the first year of life. The selected recycling communities have a 15-year history of primitive, informal e-waste recycling activity.”

University of Cincinnati

image via University of Cincinnati

Mothers will be asked to give blood, hair and urine samples before 28 weeks of gestation and cord blood upon delivery. From this will come the results of research on the effects of complex metal and organic pollutant mixtures in e-waste said to be urgently needed in order to avoid unnecessary health risks to vulnerable populations from exposure to toxic air, soil and water.

“Because the brain is in a state of rapid development, the blood-brain barrier in infants and young children is not as effective as in adults, and neurotoxic substances—like heavy metals—can cause developmental damage,” said Chen in a statement.

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