Electronic waste could increase toxins in breast milk


London : A study in China has found harmful chemical compounds in the breast milk of women living near places where electronic waste is dumped and recycled, and this could pose a health risk to their infants too, say scientists.

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Electronic waste, also known as e-waste, consists of broken or unwanted electrical or electronic appliances including computers, televisions and mobile phones that have been discarded. They are considered poisonous and are not biodegradable.

According to a report by China’s State Environmental Protection Administration, people who live near electronic recycling sites have higher levels of harmful toxins in their bodies.

Ming Wong of Hong Kong Baptist University and colleagues studied 20 women in their mid-20s at two different sites in China — a major e-waste recycling site in Taizhou, Zhejiang province, and Hangzhou — a city in the same province that does not carry out such recycling.

Residents of Hangzhou had levels of harmful chemical compounds that were similar to those of people in Ireland and Sweden, reported the online edition of BBC News.

At the e-waste site, however, harmful chemical compounds in humans were among the highest recorded anywhere in the world — women’s breast milk had more than double the concentration of the compounds found in the other site and their placentas had nearly three times the concentration of the chemical.

The study also found that women who lived near the e-waste site for longer periods had relatively higher poisonous chemical compounds, as well as a higher chance of suffering a spontaneous abortion.

Wong added that more research was needed to conclude whether the elevated levels of the compounds were related to health problems.