Toxic heavy metals are released into the environment constantly from unregulated electronic waste (e-waste) recycling in Guiyu, China, and therefore may contribute to the elevation of cadmium and other heavy metal levels in the placenta. The concentrations of heavy metals, lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd), in human placenta from Guiyu were compared with those from a control area where no e-waste processing occurs. A total of two hundred and eighty-one placentas were collected from Guiyu (n=199) and the control area (n=82). Heavy metal concentrations were determined by graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry (GFAAS). Factors associated with high exposure were analyzed using Spearman Correlation Analyses. Placental cadmium (PCCd ) from Guiyu ranged from 14.21 to 376.80 ng/g with a median of 96.56 ng/g, whereas PCCd from the control area ranged from 9.71 to 51.74 ng/g with a median of 21.15 ng/g (P<0.001). No significant difference was found in placental lead (PCPb) levels between the two groups. Compared with control, the neonatal birth weight in Guiyu was significantly decreased (mean 3.15±0.03 vs 3.32±0.05, P<0.001). Spearman correlation analyses showed that the placental cadmium level showed a correlation with whether the house was used as workshop or not, the type of fuel for cooking, and milk product consumption during pregnancy. Environmental pollution, resulted from unregulated e-waste recycling activities, may contribute to elevated PCCd in neonates born in Guiyu and thus threaten their health status.

Key Words: E-waste / Placenta / Cadmium / Lead / Neonate

Shaoshan Qiu, Xia Huo, Bin Li, Junxiao Liu, Yekeen Taofeek Akangbe, Yuling Zhang, Xijin Xu


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  • Received: 15 May 2012
  • Accepted: 15 May 2012
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