Many California residents believe that simply throwing away old electronics is dangerous to the planet and the population because of the metals and chemicals they contain. This may be true, but not as much thought is given to the industrial workers who are continuously exposed to the chemicals in electronics every day they are at work. This issue was recently given attention by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in a post on its Science Blog.
NIOSH performed safety evaluations at such recycling plants. Workers at electronics recycling plants are exposed to hazardous chemicals such as cadmium, chromium and lead. Other hazards found at these plants include excessive noise pollution.
The contamination and exposure risks were not only in the production areas. In some cases, employees were not given uniforms and were tracking dangerous chemicals on their personal clothing outside the production area. There were also no showers available for workers, and employees were "dry sweeping," which disseminates dust from hazardous chemicals into the air.
This fall, NIOSH will conduct a study to determine how to better limit industrial workers' exposure to these hazardous chemicals. In the meantime, if a California worker suffers an illness due to chemical exposure, he or she may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits that cover expenses such as medical treatment and lost income. Additional benefits may be available, depending on the situation. If a worker should die from such exposure, his or her family may be entitled to benefits that could help them through the sudden loss of their loved one's income and the burial of their family member.
Source: safety.blr.com, "Electronics recycling workers exposed to hazardous materials", Oct. 8, 2014