Exposure to toxicants in soil and bottom ash deposits in Agbogbloshie, Ghana: human health risk assessment

S. Obiri*, O. D. Ansa-Asare, S. Mohammed, H. F. Darko, A. G. Dartey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Recycling of e-waste using informal or crude techniques poses serious health risk not only to the workers but also to the environment as whole. It is against this background that this paper sought to measure health risk faced by informal e-waste workers from exposure to toxicants such as lead, cadmium, chromium, copper, arsenic, tin, zinc and cobalt via oral and dermal contact with bottom ash and soil. Using random sampling techniques, 3 separate sites each (where burning and manual dismantling of e-wastes are usually carried) were identified, and a total of 402 samples were collected. The samples were analysed using standard methods for chemical analysis prescribed by the American Water Works Association (AWWA). Concentrations of Pb, Cd, Cr, Cu, As, Sn, Zn and Co in bottom ash samples from location ASH1 are 5388 ± 0.02 mg/kg (Pb), 2.39 ± 0.01 mg/kg (Cd), 42 ± 0.05 mg/kg (Cr), 7940 ± 0.01 mg/kg (Cu), 20 ± 0.07 mg/kg (As), 225 ± 0.04 mg/kg (Sn), 276 ± 0.04 mg/kg (Zn) and 123 ± 0.04 mg/kg (Co), while concentrations of the aforementioned toxicants in soil samples at location ASG1 are as follows: 1685 ± 0.14 mg/kg (Pb), 26.89 ± 0.30 mg/kg (Cd), 36.86 ± 0.02 mg/kg (Cr), 1427 ± 0.08 mg/kg (Cu), 1622 ± 0.12 mg/kg (As), 234 ± 0.25 mg/kg (Sn), 783 ± 0.31 mg/kg (Zn) and 135 ± 0.01 mg/kg (Co); used as input parameters in assessing health risk faced by workers. The results of cancer health risk faced by e-waste workers due to accidental ingestion of As in bottom ash at ASH1 is 4.3 × 10−3 (CTE) and 6.5 × 10−2 (RME), i.e. approximately 4 out of 1000 e-waste workers are likely to suffer from cancer-related diseases via central tendency exposure (CTE parameters), and 7 out of every 100 e-waste worker is also likely to suffer from cancer cases by reasonable maximum exposure (RME) parameters, respectively. The cancer health risk results for the other sampling sites were found to have exceeded the acceptable USEPA cancer risk value of 1 × 10−4 to 1 × 10−6 (i.e. 1 case of cancer per every 10,000 people to 1 case of cancer per every 1,000,000 people). The non-cancer health risk results for all the toxicants were higher in all the locations for both adult and children working the e-waste site. From the findings of this study, the government of Ghana has to immediately put in place policies that would address the safety of the e-waste workers as well as protect the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number583
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Agbogbloshie
  • Bottom soil and bottom ash
  • Cancer
  • Ghana
  • Informal e-waste recyclers
  • Non-cancer


Dive into the research topics of 'Exposure to toxicants in soil and bottom ash deposits in Agbogbloshie, Ghana: human health risk assessment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this