A relative risk assessment of the open burning of WEEE

Alessandra Cesaro, Vincenzo Belgiorno, Giuliana Gorrasi, Gianluca Viscusi, Mentore Vaccari, Giovanni Vinti, Aleksander Jandric, Maria Isabel Dias, Andrew Hursthouse, Stefan Salhofer

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45 Citations (Scopus)
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Waste Electric and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) represents a potential secondary source of valuable materials, whose recovery is a growing business activity worldwide. In low-income countries recycling is carried out under poorly controlled conditions resulting in severe environmental pollution. High concentrations of both metallic and organic pollutants have been confirmed in air, soil, water and sediments in countries with informal recycling areas. The release of these contaminants into the environment presents a risk to the health of the exposed population that has been widely acknowledged, but still needs to be quantified. The aim of this work was to evaluate the relative risk from inhalation associated with the open burning of different kinds of WEEE. The Shrinking-Core Model was applied to estimate the concentration of the metals which would be released into the environment during the incineration of different types of WEEE. In addition the potential generation of dioxins during the same informal practice was estimated, based on the plastic content of the WEEE. The results provided for the first time a comparative analysis of the risk posed from the open burning of WEEE components, proposing a methodology to address the absolute risk assessment to workers from the informal recycling of WEEE.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11042-11052
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Pollution Research
Early online date21 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • Air pollutants
  • Electronic waste
  • Environmental risk assessment
  • Informal recycling


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