Evaluation of exposure to metals at an electronic scrap recycling facility
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Evaluation of exposure to metals at an electronic scrap recycling facility

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  • Journal Article:
    NIOSH health hazard evaluation report
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    The Health Hazard Evaluation Program received a request from managers at an electronic scrap recycling company. The request concerned possible employee exposure to lead and cadmium. The company's primary activities included recycling batteries, metals, cardboard, and ballast and capacitors for fluorescent lights. Other activities included sorting, dismantling, and shredding electronic equipment such as computers (excluding cathode ray tube monitors), printers, keyboards, central processing units, fax machines, cameras, medical equipment, and photocopiers. Our evaluation included (1) observing work activities and processes; (2) testing air, work surfaces, and employees' hands for metals, including beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, and lead; (3) testing employees' blood for lead and cadmium; (4) measuring noise exposures; and (5) interviewing employees about their work history and health and safety concerns. Our metal sampling results indicated that the air levels were below their occupational exposure limits. Employees' blood did not show detectable amounts of lead, and cadmium levels were well below the limit that would trigger Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements. We detected metals on surfaces, including those in break areas. The metals that we found on employees' hands before they left the facility and the practice of taking work clothes home for laundering can lead to take-home exposures. Some employees were overexposed to noise. We observed a lack of machine guards on some equipment, employees eating near work areas, and some work activities that could lead to low back injuries. Our interviews with employees found that cultural differences related to national origin might create barriers to communication about workplace health and safety. To address exposure to metals, we recommended the employer provide employees with a designated eating area, provide laundering facilities on site or contract with a laundering service, and prohibit dry sweeping. We recommended the employer address noise exposures by implementing a hearing conservation program, requiring employees to turn down the radio volume, placing scrap parts on the conveyor instead of throwing them, and replacing old equipment with new equipment that generates less noise. The employer should also replace all missing machine guards, evaluate the risk for musculoskeletal disorders, and promote employee engagement in workplace health and safety.

    Recommended citation for this report: NIOSH 2014. Health hazard evaluation report: evaluation of exposure to metals at an electronic scrap recycling facility. By Beaucham CC, Kawamoto MM, Brueck SE. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH HHE Report No. 2013-0130-3226.

    NIOSHTIC No. 20045451

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