After inspecting models from five major laptop manufacturers, those by Hewlett Packard (HP) and Apple registered the highest levels of certain hazardous substances, according to environmental group Greenpeace.
Aside from laptops by HP and Apple, Greenpeace said in a statement said it tested purchased models from Acer, Dell and Sony. The test was conducted by an independent Danish laboratory, which checked the presence of hazardous substances in a variety of internal and external components.
According to a Greenpeace study, the lab findings on HP’s laptop registered high levels of polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDE is a class of brominated flame retardants or BFRs), including decabromodiphenyl ether (decaBDE) in the fan. Lead was also found in the soldering.
On the other hand, the Apple MacBook registered a concentration of 262 mg/kg of tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA is another class of BFR) in the fan.
“During the sampling process it was remarkable to note that, whether Mac or PC, once you bypass the sleek and cool design of these computers, hazardous substances are a component common to all,” said Kevin Brigden from the Greenpeace Research Laboratories, who oversaw the sampling analyses and produced the report.
Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace Southeast Asia toxics campaigner, said that developing countries like the Philippines are the most imperiled by the backward policies of these electronics companies.
“The absence of a fully functioning global take-back system means that these contaminated products will find their way to scrap yards in Asia, exposing communities to hazardous substances that electronic companies have neglected to eliminate from their products, properly dispose of or contain,” Baconguis said.
Greenpeace is calling on the electronics industry to go beyond the European Union RoHS directive. The directive (the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment) is intended to reduce the use of substances that may pose risks to human health or the environment.
Greenpeace is also calling on companies to eliminate all hazardous chemicals, including all types of BFRs and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. According to Greenpeace, no company has yet put on the market a product that is clean of all of these chemicals.
Many of the chemicals found in the laptops, including lead, PVC and some BFRs, are hazardous to health and persist in the environment.
Long-term exposure to some BFRs (certain PBDEs) has been associated with abnormal brain development in animals, with possible long-term impacts on memory, learning and behavior.
Some BFRs also interfere with thyroid and estrogen hormone systems. TBBPA has been shown in some laboratory studies to be toxic to the nervous system. The presence of PBDE and TBBPA, or other bromine-containing chemicals, in electronics products has the potential to generate brominated dioxins and furans, when the electronic waste comes to be smelted, incinerated or burnt in the open.
Meanwhile, when PVCs are produced or disposed by incineration, chlorinated dioxins and furans are released. Dioxins and furans are classes of chemical compounds widely recognized as some of the most toxic chemicals ever made by humans, and many are toxic even in very low concentrations.
Last month, Greenpeace released its “Guide to Greener Electronics,” ranking 14 major computer and mobile phone manufacturers on their use of potentially harmful substances in products. The organization found that Nokia ranked the highest in its efforts to properly dispose of hazardous material, and Dell did the best job of providing opportunities for their customers to dispose of older hardware and other equipment.
-Computerworld Philippines staff, Computerworld Philippines
(Al Sacco, CIO online news writer, contributed to this report.)
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