Hazardous Substances in e-Waste

Electrical and electronic equipment contain different hazardous materials that are harmful to human health and the environment it can also damage the ozone layer. If these Hazardous substances are not disposed of carefully, they can make our air and water polluted.

The following are major Hazardous Substances present in e-waste.


Arsenic is a very poisonous element. Chronic exposure to arsenic can lead to various diseases of the skin and it also affect the nervous system. Chronic exposure to arsenic can also cause lung cancer. It  is present in circuit boards, LCD displays, and computer chips


Exposure to barium could lead to brain swelling, muscle weakness, damage to the heart, liver, and spleen.

Barium is present in sparkplugs, fluorescent lamps and “getters” in vacuum tubes.


It can cause lung cancer, a disease that primarily affects the lungs. Exposure to beryllium also causes a form of skin disease.

Beryllium is present in the Printed Circuit Board ( PCB).

Brominated flame retardants (BFRs)

Flame retardants make materials, especially plastics and textiles, more flame resistant. They have been found in indoor dust and air through migration and evaporation from plastics. Combustion of halogenated case material and printed wiring boards at lower temperatures releases toxic emissions including dioxins which can lead to severe hormonal disorders.


Cadmium is present in Mobile Phone and Laptop Batteries. It can cause damage to the Kidney. Cadmium shows the danger of cumulative effects in the environment due to its acute and chronic toxicity. Acute exposure to cadmium fumes causes flu-like symptoms of weakness, fever, headache, chills, sweating and muscular pain. The primary health risks of long term exposure are lung cancer and kidney damage and can cause bone disease.

CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons)

Chlorofluorocarbons are compounds composed of carbon, fluorine, chlorine, and sometimes hydrogen. Used mainly in cooling units and insulation foam, when released into the atmosphere, they accumulate in the stratosphere and have a deleterious effect on the ozone layer. This results in an increased incidence of skin cancer in humans and in genetic damage in many organisms.


Chromium and its oxides are widely used because of their high conductivity and anti-corrosive properties. Most chromium (VI) compounds are irritating to eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Chronic exposure to chromium (VI) compounds can cause permanent eye injury unless properly treated. Chromium VI may also cause DNA damage


Dioxins are known to be highly toxic to animals and humans because they bio-accumulate in the body and can lead to malformations of the fetus, decreased reproduction and growth rates and cause impairment of the immune system among other things.


Lead is the fifth most widely used metal after iron, aluminum, copper and zinc. It is commonly used in the electrical and electronics industry in solder, lead-acid batteries, electronic components, cable sheathing, in the glass of CRTs, etc. Short-term exposure to high levels of lead can cause vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, coma or even death.


Mercury is one of the most toxic yet widely used metals in the production of electrical and electronic applications. It is a toxic heavy metal that bioaccumulates causing brain and liver damage if ingested or inhaled. In electronics and electrical appliances, mercury is highly concentrated in batteries, some switches and thermostats, and fluorescent lamps.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are a class of organic compounds use in a variety of applications, including dielectric fluids for capacitors and transformers, heat transfer fluids and as additives in adhesives and plastics. PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is the most widely-used plastic, used in everyday electronics and appliances, household items, pipes, upholstery, etc. PVC is hazardous because it contains up to 56 percent chlorine which when burned produces large quantities of hydrogen chloride gas, which combines with water to form hydrochloric acid and is dangerous because when inhaled, it leads to respiratory problems.


The black toner is a pigment commonly called, carbon black – the general term used to describe the commercial powder form of carbon. Inhalation is the primary exposure pathway, and acute exposure may lead to respiratory tract irritation. The International

Phosphor and additives

Phosphor is an inorganic chemical compound that is Exposure to high concentrations of selenium compounds that cause selenosis. The major signs of selenosis are hair loss, nail brittleness, and neurological abnormalities (such as numbness and other odd sensations in the extremities).

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