Sylvia Takyi, MSc, PhD

Nominated From: University of Michigan

Research Site: University of Ghana

Research Area: Environmental Epidemiology

Primary Mentors: Dr. Thomas Robins and Dr. Julius Fobil

Research Project

Environmental exposures, endocrine disruption, diet and metabolic diseases among electronic waste recyclers in Ghana

Technological advancements that have resulted in higher living standards have orchestrated new challenges within the environmental health context. These challenges, together with unchecked industrialization and urbanization, have put human lives at risk, due to a lack of efficient pollution control strategies. Informal electronic waste (e-waste) recycling activities remains one of the negative by-products of technological advancements. This is because, apart from some LMICs using primitive techniques (e.g., open air burning) to extract valuable metals from e-waste, such activities are hazardous and render the bulk of e-waste obsolete and destined for burning. Although the majority of the electronics and materials in e-waste are recoverable and reusable, the presence of various forms of hazardous chemicals and toxic metals (e.g. Pb, Hg, Cd) in e-waste, when released, can pose several fatal threats to the human population and the environment.

Research Significance

In Ghana, electronic waste (e-waste) recycling is performed using crude methods like open-air burning, dismantling, collection and sorting to retrieve valuable metals like copper. Unfortunately, recyclers as well as residents who live near informal electronic waste (e-waste) recycling facilities are vulnerable to chemicals (metals, organic compounds etc) released during this recycling process. They come into direct contact with chemical-contaminated soil, dust, air, water, or food sources, through inhalation, ingestion, and skin absorption. Exposure to such chemicals may disrupt key endocrine and metabolic processes and lead to an array of metabolic diseases including diabetes, hypertension etc). Furthermore, these e-waste-related exposures e-waste has a direct impact on women’s morbidity/mortality, fertility, metabolic health and the health of their newborn. Although intake of a micronutrient-rich diet is known to ameliorate such chemical-induced adverse health effects, no previous studies have been published in the scientific literature addressing the impact of diet among informal sector e-waste recyclers and residents (especially women and children) of heavily polluted areas like Agbogbloshie. This study will therefore provide baseline metal exposure data not only among e-waste recyclers, but women and children resident at Agbogbloshie. Furthermore, the prevalence of metabolic diseases among this population will be documented to inform policy on the need for the implementation cleaner e-waste recycling strategies at Agbogbloshie, Ghana.


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