Using elemental analyses and multivariate statistics to identify the off-site dispersion from informal e-waste processing†
Electronic waste (e-waste) is informally processed and recycled in Agbogbloshie in Accra (Ghana), which may be the largest such site in West Africa. This industry can lead to significant environmental contamination. In this study, surface dust samples were collected at a range of sites within Accra to establish the offsite consequences of such activities. Fifty-one samples were collected and analysed for 69 elements by ICP-mass spectrometry after nitric acid digestion. The data indicated a significant enrichment in metals associated with solder and copper wire at the site itself and a downwind dispersion of this source material to a distance of approximately 2.0 km. Chlorine and bromine were also elevated at this site as residues from polyvinyl chloride combustion and flame retardants respectively. The elemental composition indicated that only low technology electrical equipment was being treated this way. Multivariate statistical analyses by principal components analysis and polytopic vector analysis identified three sources contributing to the system; (i) burn site residue dispersing within 2 km from the source site, (ii) marine matter on the beaches alone and (iii) the baseline soil conditions of the city of Accra. Risk ratios and hazard quotients developed from the measured concentrations indicated that copper was providing the greatest risk to inhabitants in most cases although nickel, vanadium, chromium and zinc also contributed.