Wastes from electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) are disposed and dismantled in recycling plants where chemical composition of particulate matter (PM) is different from all the other working places. A first identification of airborne contaminants, associated with size-segregated particles in the fine (aerodynamic diameter < 2.5 mu m) and coarse (aerodynamic diameter in the range 2.5-10 mu m) fractions, sampled in two sectors of a WEEE facility, was performed. In the two areas of the plant, disassembly and shredding processes produced large amounts of dust, causing mass concentrations of airborne particles particularly high when activities intensified.Analyses of Na, Mg, Al, Si, P, S, Cl, K, Ca, Ti, V, Cr, Mn, Fe, Ni, Cu, Zn, Ga, As, Se, Br, Rb, Sr, Y, Zr, Mo, Ba, and Pb were performed on PM samples collected by a streaker sampler. PM was collected with hourly and 30-min time resolution in the two sectors of the plant for three consecutive days, night and day.Organic substances belonging to the classes of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and their oxy- and nitro- derivatives (oxy-PAHs and nitro-PAHs), organophosphorus compounds (OPEs), polyfluoralkyl substances (PFASs), and novel-brominated flame retardants (BFRs) were extracted and identified in PM samples collected by PM10 impactors. Particle sampling period for organic analyses was 4 h per day in the same three days, in each sector of the plant, during the working hours.High time resolution records of elemental composition were useful for highlighting the elements strongly depending on the productive process. During working hours, Pb and Ba concentrations reached higher levels and drastically decreased during the night. Their distribution in the coarse and fine fractions consistently increased and decreased, meaning that both fractions were linked to the working activity. Si, as main component of glass, was the most abundant element at both the areas. Though all the elements were below the permissible exposure limits recommended by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA's PELs), the concentration of Pb was significantly high, especially at the shredding zone (21.9 mu g/m(3)).The major organic constituents, among the classes of compounds investigated, were organophosphorus compounds (OPEs), especially in the coarse fraction of PM. In particular, triphenylphosphate (TPhP), deriving from computer video display units, was the most abundant organic compound. Interestingly, phenanthrene contributed to 60% of the total polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), at both the sampling sites. Airborne plastic dust can be a source of PAHs. Products made of polyethylene recycled from post-commercial waste contain high concentrations of phenanthrene, present as impurities. The present study represents a preliminary investigation on WEEE plants airborne PM composition and additional research is necessary to confirm the data, but it is worth developing a method, as high particle concentrations, together with absorbed genotoxins, could constitute an occupational health risk.
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