Impacts of Maternal Exposure to E-waste on Birth Outcomes (2020-2021)


Handling and disposal of discarded electrical or electronic equipment (EEE) is frequently unregulated. E-waste contains hazardous constituents such as lead, mercury, chromium, certain chemicals in plastics and flame retardants.

Located in the Jiangsu province of southern China, Taizhou has been involved in e-waste recycling for more than 30 years. There is increasing concern about health effects related to contamination in air, soil and water for people working and living near e-waste processing sites. Protecting human health and the environment from e-waste contamination is a complex challenge.

Project Description

This project team aims to answer some critical questions regarding e-waste recycling, specifically by studying the global health impacts of e-waste recycling on the Taizhou community through both lab-based and community-based science.

The team will examine two interdependent components: the health impacts of e-waste handling among pregnant women and their children; and the environmental and global impacts of e-waste handling. Team members will investigate the impacts of maternal e-waste exposure on birth outcomes, evaluate the epigenetic modulation among the cohort exposed to e-waste and explore community knowledge and perceptions regarding e-waste recycling’s adverse health outcomes.

Lab research will focus on epigenetics (to identify the association of e-waste exposure and fetal DNA methylation and potential short-term and long-term health effects) and placental biology (to explore the impacts of e-waste exposure on placentation and subsequent pregnancy outcomes using in vitro and in vivo models).

Community-based research will involve epidemiology (to report on the association of e-waste exposure and birth outcomes) and policy (to provide evidence and community surveys on the impact of the waste import ban in 2017 and scenarios for development of educational programs at Duke and DKU).

Anticipated Outputs

Publications; blog posts; long-term educational programs; first-hand materials for environmental policy advocacy and future research


Summer 2020 – Spring 2021

  • Summer 2020 (optional): Develop team charter and projects for each subteam; conduct site visit for more sample collection; visit Shanghai for DNA methylation and data analysis; visit DKU for public policy study; conduct lab work
  • Fall 2020: Complete activities for study; conduct data analysis and writing
  • Spring 2021: Write manuscripts; give presentations

See earlier related team, The Global Impacts of E-waste Exposure and E-waste Recycling Policy on Maternal and Fetal Health (2019-2020).


Image: E-Waste Recycling, by Alex Proimos, licensed under CC BY 2.0

E-Waste Recycling.

Team Leaders

  • Liping Feng, School of Medicine-Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Kathinka Furst, Duke Kunshan University
  • John Ji, Duke Kunshan University
  • Susan Murphy, School of Medicine-Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Conghuai Yan, Shanghai Jiaotong University
  • Junfeng (Jim) Zhang, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy

/graduate Team Members

  • Christine Crute, Toxicology & Env. Health-PHD
  • Yan Sun, Master of Environmental Management

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Afreen Ashraf
  • Alice Carroll
  • Xavier Heidelberg
  • Elizabeth Lamb, Political Science (AB), Asian & Mid East Studies (AB2)
  • Jenny Li
  • Amelia Martin, Biology (BS), Global Health (AB2)
  • Julia Murphy, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Amy Zhao, Biology (BS), Global Health (AB2)

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Brian Antczack, Feng Lab