Control technology and exposure assessment for electronic recycling operations United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
Researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a study of the recycling of electronic components at the Federal Prison Industries facilities (aka, UNICOR) in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania in January 2008 to assess workers' exposures to metals and other occupational hazards, including noise, associated with these operations. The electronics recycling operations at Lewisburg can be organized into four production processes: a) receiving and sorting, b) disassembly, c) glass breaking operations, and d) packaging and shipping. A fifth operation, cleaning and maintenance, was also addressed but is not considered a production process per se. It is known that lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), and other metals are used in the manufacturing of electronic components and pose a risk to workers involved in recycling of electronic components if the processes are not adequately controlled or the workers are not properly trained and provided appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment. Methods used to assess worker exposures to metals during this evaluation included: personal breathing zone sampling for airborne metals and particulate, and surface wipe sampling to assess surface contamination. Samples were analyzed for 31 metals with five selected elements (barium, beryllium, cadmium, lead and nickel) given emphasis. Noise exposures were determined using sound pressure level monitors. The results of air sampling conducted during this visit indicated no overexposures of workers to metals above the most stringent occupational exposure limits. Exposures to airborne metals during the filter change-out maintenance operation (the task of primary concern in this evaluation) were also well below the most stringent occupational exposure limits. Although beryllium is used in consumer electronics and computer components, such as disk drive arms (beryllium-aluminum), electrical contacts, switches, and connector plugs (copper-beryllium) and printed wiring boards [Willis and Florig 2002, Schmidt 2002], most beryllium "in consumer products is used in ways that are not likely to create beryllium exposures during use and maintenance" [Willis and Florig 2002]. This may account for the fact that beryllium in this study was not detected at levels above the detection limit of the analytical method. The removal and sorting of components seen here is typical of a maintenance activity (components are removed from the cases and sorted, rather than removed and replaced). Other e-recycling activities that include further processing, such as shredding of the components, may produce higher exposures to beryllium, but shredding (except as a means to destroy memory devices) does not occur at this facility. Samples collected during routine daily disassembly operations and glass breaking operations were less than 10% of the OSHA PELs for both Cd and Pb. Unless specified, results of samples presented are for the duration of the sample and not calculated on an 8 hour time weighted average basis. Lead was detected on surface wipe samples in excess of recommended levels, although in 2 of 3 instances it was concluded that this was existing contamination on materials coming into the workplace. Cadmium and other heavy metals were detected in the surface wipe and bulk dust samples. There are few established standards available for wipe samples with which to compare these data although the samples collected were below recommended maximum levels which do exist. The wipe sample results generally cannot be used to determine the source of the contamination. They only estimate the surface contamination present at the time the sample was collected. Eight-hour time weighted average measurements of noise in this workplace identified several instances where exposure was greater than the REL and TL V of 85 dBA, although none which exceeded the PEL of 90 dBA. Recommendations resulting from this study include: 1) the implementation of a site-specific health and safety program at Lewisburg that includes a noise reduction program; 2) the respiratory protection program for this facility should be evaluated to ensure that it complies with OSHA regulations; 3) attention should be focused on practices to prevent accidental ingestion of lead and other metals; 4) management should evaluate the feasibility of providing and laundering work clothing for all workers in the recycling facility; 5) change rooms should be equipped with separate storage facilities for work clothing and for street clothes to prevent cross-contamination; and 6) all UNICOR operations should be evaluated from the perspective of health, safety and the environment in the near future. A comprehensive program is needed within the Bureau of Prisons to assure both staff and inmates a safe and healthy workplace.
Control-technology; Engineering-controls; Region-3; Prison-workers; Correctional-facilities; Heavy-metals; Analytical-methods; Sampling; Barium-compounds; Beryllium-compounds; Cadmium-compounds; Lead-compounds; Nickel-compounds; Dust-exposure; Electronic-components; Exposure-assessment; Exposure-levels; Exposure-limits; Environmental-contamination; Noise-control; Clothing; Regulations; Respiratory-protective-equipment; Occupational-health-programs; Occupational-safety-programs
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Applied Research and Technology, Engineering and Physical Hazards Branch, Mail Stop R-5, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226-1998