• E-waste;
  • Persistent halogenated compounds;
  • Environmental occurrence;
  • Human exposure;
  • China


Various classes of persistent halogenated compounds (PHCs) can be released into the environment due to improper handling and disposal of electronic waste (e-waste), which creates severe environmental problems and poses hazards to human health as well. In this review, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs), tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), polybrominated phenols (PBPs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs), polybrominated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PBDD/Fs), and chlorinated polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (ClPAHs) are the main target contaminants for examination. As the world's largest importer and recycler of e-waste, China has been under tremendous pressure to deal with this huge e-waste situation. This review assesses the magnitude of the e-waste problems in China based on data obtained from the last several years, during which many significant investigations have been conducted. Comparative analyses of the concentrations of several classes of toxic compounds, in which e-waste recycling sites are compared with reference sites in China, have indicated that improper e-waste handling affects the environment of dismantling sites more than that of control sites. An assessment of the annual mass loadings of PBDEs, PBBs, TBBPA, PBPs, PCDD/Fs, and ClPAHs from e-waste in China has shown that PBDEs are the dominant components of PHCs in e-waste, followed by ClPAHs and PCDD/Fs. The annual loadings of PBDEs, ClPAHs, and PCDD/Fs emission were estimated to range from 76,200 to 182,000, 900 to 2,000 and 3 to 8 kg/year, respectively. However, PCDD/Fs and ClPAHs should not be neglected because they are also primarily released from e-waste recycling processes. Overall, the magnitude of human exposure to these toxics in e-waste sites in China is at the high end of the global range. Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 2010;29:1237–1247. © 2010 SETAC