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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Profile occurrences and in vitro effects of toxic organic pollutants in metal shredding facilities in Wallonia (Belgium)

Doan, Thi Que; Pham, Anh Duc; Brouhon, Jean-Marc; Lundqvist, Johan; Scippo, Marie-Louise


End-of-life vehicles and e-waste contain several hazardous substances that can contaminate the environment during treatment processes. Occurrences and adverse effects of toxic organic pollutants emitted from 3 shredder plants located in Wallonia, Belgium, were investigated by chemical and biological analyses of fluff, dust, and scrubbing sludge sampled in 2019. Site 1 showed the highest concentrations of chlorinated compounds in sludge with 7.5 ng/g polychlorinated dibenzo-dioxins/furans and 84.5 mu g/g estimated total polychlorinated biphenyls, while site 3 led the brominated flame retardant levels in dust (53.4 mu g/g). The level of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons was highest in the sludge samples, 78 and 71 mu g/g for sites 2 and 3, respectively. The samples induced significant dioxin-like activities in murine and human cells at concentrations of around 0.01-0.1 and 0.5-1 ng (sample) per ml (medium), respectively, with the efficacy similar to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin and EC50 values of around 1 and 10 ng/ml. The samples also displayed high estrogenic activities, already at 1 ng/ml, and several induced a response as efficient as 17 beta-estradiol, albeit a low androgenic activity. Shredder workers were estimated to be highly exposed to dioxin-like compounds through dust ingestion and dermal absorption, which is of concern.


E-waste; End-of-life vehicles (ELVs); Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs); Cell-based bioassays; Recycling

Published in

Journal of Hazardous Materials
2022, volume: 423, article number: 127009
Publisher: ELSEVIER

Authors' information

University of Liège
Pham, Anh Duc
Leiden University
Brouhon, Jean-Marc
Walloon Agency for Air and Climate
Scippo, Marie-Louise
University of Liege

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG3 Good health and well-being
SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)