Environmental health risks associated with e-waste exposure in Badplaas, Carolina and Elukwatini landfills, Republic of South Africa


A recent study identified a mixed stream of waste in Badplaas, Carolina and Elukwatini landfills. However, the risks associated with the situation in the three selected towns remains unknown. Thus, this paper fills this gap of qualitatively assessing the potential environmental health risks associated with specific waste streams identified. Secondly, there are no scientifically acceptable methods of assessing risks in unregulated landfills, given their irregular nature. This study attempts to adapt existing risk assessment methods towards standardizing a basic qualitative method that can be used to estimate potential risks that these facilities may pose to environmental health. Previous studies have found an association between human exposure to heavy metals and volatile organic compounds, and the prevalence of different cancers, birth defects and a number of mutagenic risks. This study identified e-waste as the common source of heavy metals and chlorinated organic compounds such as arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium and PCBs, which are carcinogenic, teratogenic and mutagenic. Thus, through the use of the adapted risk assessment framework, data was collected through observations and interviews. The study confirms that communities in the study areas may be at risk of cancer, birth defects and mutagens associated with exposure to unregulated landfill hazards.

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