Metal exposures in an electronic scrap recycling facility
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Metal exposures in an electronic scrap recycling facility

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      The Health Hazard Evaluation Program received a request from a manager at an electronic scrap (e-scrap) recycling company. The request concerned potential exposure to metals, including lead and cadmium. The company employed about 80 individuals who processed and recycled computers, monitors, hard drives, televisions, printers, light bulbs, and other e-scrap. We evaluated the facility in April and June 2013. We (1) interviewed employees about their work practices, symptoms, and health concerns related to work; (2) tested work surfaces, skin, and clothing for metals such as lead, cadmium, chromium, nickel, and mercury; and (3) tested employees' urine for cadmium and mercury and their blood for lead and cadmium. No employees reported work-related health problems. Exposure to lead was well controlled in the shred room as indicated by employee blood lead levels. However, two employees in the teardown area had elevated blood lead levels (at or above 10 µg/dL). Blood and urine cadmium levels were not elevated, and no mercury was detected in employees' urine. We found lead and other metals on the skin of employees at lunch and before going home. We also found metals on nonproduction work surfaces. Lockers stored personal items and food along with work clothing and personal protective equipment. Showers and laundered uniforms were only offered to the glass shredding employees. Workers unjammed scrap from equipment that was powered on and running. To address employee exposures to metals, we recommended the employer (1) include all employees exposed to lead in a lead prevention program, (2) install a clean locker room area for employees to store personal items and food, (3) provide scrubs, uniforms, shoe covers, and a contract laundering service for all employees exposed to lead, (4) require all employees exposed to lead to shower and change clothing before leaving work, and (5) increase the number of sinks for hand washing. We also recommended the employer follow lockout/tagout procedures to de-energize machinery before conducting troubleshooting, repairs, or maintenance. We recommended employees take a shower at the end of the shift, wash their hands before eating or smoking, and not wear or take work clothing or shoes home.

      NIOSHTIC No. 20045642

      Recommended citation for this report: NIOSH [2015]. Health hazard evaluation report: metal exposures in an electronic scrap recycling facility. By Page E, Ceballos D, Oza A, Gong W, Mueller C. 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. 2013-0067-3228.

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