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Environ Geochem Health. 2014 Feb;36(1):159-68. doi: 10.1007/s10653-013-9526-y. Epub 2013 May 5.

Pollution distribution of heavy metals in surface soil at an informal electronic-waste recycling site.

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Center for Material Cycles and Waste Management Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), 16-2 Onogawa, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, 305-8506, Japan,


We studied distribution of heavy metals [lead (Pb), copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn)] in surface soil at an electronic-waste (e-waste) recycling workshop near Metro Manila in the Philippines to evaluate the pollution size (spot size, small area or the entire workshop), as well as to assess heavy metal transport into the surrounding soil environment. On-site length-of-stride-scale (~70 cm) measurements were performed at each surface soil point using field-portable X-ray fluorescence (FP-XRF). The surface soil at the e-waste recycling workshop was polluted with Cu, Zn and Pb, which were distributed discretely in surface soil. The site was divided into five areas based on the distance from an entrance gate (y-axis) of the e-waste recycling workshop. The three heavy metals showed similar concentration gradients in the y-axis direction. Zn, Pb and Cu concentrations were estimated to decrease to half of their maximum concentrations at ~3, 7 and 7 m from the pollution spot, respectively, inside the informal e-waste recycling workshop. Distance from an entrance may play an important role in heavy metal transport at the soil surface. Using on-site FP-XRF, we evaluated the metal ratio to characterise pollution features of the solid surface. Variability analysis of heavy metals revealed vanishing surficial autocorrelation over metre ranges. Also, the possibility of concentration prediction at unmeasured points using geostatistical kriging was evaluated, and heavy metals had a relative "small" pollution scales and remained inside the original workshop compared with toxic organohalogen compounds. Thus, exposure to heavy metals may directly influence the health of e-waste workers at the original site rather than the surrounding habitat and environmental media.

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