Future Directions

Currently, there are precious few published papers on the ecosystem effects of electronic waste. This is clearly a direction which needs to be explored. That being said, preliminary studies have been performed which have shown that electronic waste does result in very high levels of heavy metals within the sediments surrounding electronic waste processing villages (Wong et al., 2006). Another study has shown that electronic waste, Cadmium in particular, results in decreased rates of germination and root growth in plants. Clearly, this could have impacts on ecosystem function, particularly if these effects are multiplied as electronic waste processing increases (Jun-hui and Hang, 2008). So, indisputably, each of the toxins commonly found in electronic wastes have a profound impact on human health and the environment. What remains to be seen is the cumulative effect of all of these different toxins and their effects- both on humans and the environment they live in. For example, arsenic can act as a growth stimulant for plants while mercury and lead are detrimental to plant life- so depending on the levels of each of the chemicals, what is the effect on plants? One example, from the toxicological profile of selenium from the Department of Health and Human Services, cites a study that shows that selenium and mercury, both harmful, can lower the net toxicity of each toxin when they interact within an individual. It will also be important to investigate the possible consequences of recycling plans. Recycling may not be the simplest answer either.

In terms of international regulations, the Basel Convention has been established in order to curb the transport of hazardous waste internationally. Also, there has been a body of international regulations.

Other papers regarding levels of heavy and toxic metal contamination from electronic waste:
Guo, Y., Huang, C., Zhang, H., and Dong, Q. 2009. Heavy Metal Contamination from Electronic Waste Recycling at Guiya, Southeastern China. J Enviorn. Qual. Jun 23;38(4):1617-26

Leung, A., Cai, Z.W., Wong, M.H., 2005. Environmental Contamination from Electronic Waste Recycling at Guiyu, Southeast China. Journal of Material cycles and Waste Management. 8(1): 21-33.

Study on Various Contaminants at E-Waste Processing Sites


Jun-Hiu, Z., Hang, M. 2008. Eco-toxicity and metal contamination of paddy soil in an e-waste recylcing area. Journal of Hazardous Materials. 165: 744-750.

Wong, C.S.C., S.C. Wu, N.S. Duzgoren-Aydin, A. Aydin, and M.H. Wong. 2007b. Trace metal contamination of sediments in an e-waste processing village in China. Environ. Pollut. 145:434–442