- The disposal and recycling of electronics has increased exposure to lead and created "an emerging health concern," according to Dr. Nick Newman, a pediatrician who directs the Environmental Health and Lead Clinic at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
- In a recent report published by the Centers for Disease Control, Newman reported on two young children whose father worked at an e-scrap recycling company crushing cathode ray tubes (CRTs) made from leaded glass. The children had blood lead levels about three times higher than the reference level of 5 micrograms per deciliter used to identify children who need action to reduce their lead exposure.
- "Pediatricians should ask about parents' occupations and hobbies," said Newman. "Not only is this a conversation starter with the family, but it also is an opportunity to perform primary prevention activities to avoid take-home exposures of lead, other metals, and toxicants that may be present at work."
The dangers of lead contamination, especially in children, are already well known. Lead affects the developing nervous systems of children, and elevated levels in the blood are associated with hyperactivity, attention problems, conduct problems and impairments in thinking, understanding and learning.
The U.S. banned the use of lead paint in 1978 after it was identified as a common source of lead exposure in children. Additionally, CRTs — which were commonly used in TVs and computer monitors — have been largely replaced by newer technologies.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported that discarded TVs, computers, printers, scanners, fax machines, keyboards, cellphones and other electronics totaled 1.87 million tons in 2013. Approximately 40% of that was collected for recycling.
With so many electronics being recycled, the general public — especially facility workers who risk take-home exposure to their families — must be made aware of the dangers and take steps to reduce exposure.