Heavy metal contamination from electronic waste recycling at Guiyu, southeastern China

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This study evaluated the effect of electronic waste (e-waste) recycling activities at a regional center, Guiyu, Guangdong, China on heavy metal pollution in the surrounding waterway system. Surface water and sediment collected from the Lianjiang River and its tributaries were analyzed for concentrations of Cu, Pb, Ni, Cd, Hg, and As. Spatially, heavy metals in water and sediment samples decreased downstream of Lianjiang River from Guiyu to the estuary at Haimen Bay. Temporally, heavy metal concentrations in the surface water were high in the rainy season and low in the dry season. In particular, concentrations of Cu from surface water in the Guiyu area were 2.4 to 131 times the reference background concentration, followed in descending order by Ni, Cd, Pb, Hg, and As. However, when compared with China's Environmental Quality Standard, Cd was considered the most harmful element, followed by Hg, Pb, and Cu. Concentrations of Cu in sediment samples in the Guiyu area were 3.2 to 429 times the reference background concentration, followed by Ni, Hg, Pb, Cd, and As. Our findings suggested that high concentrations of heavy metal observed in Guiyu, Lianjiang River and the Haimen Bay could be attributed to the direct effects of e-waste recycling in Guiyu.

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