Green Chemistry vs Toxic Technology
The Problem With Electronics
Toxic Materials in Electronic Products
Over 1,000 materials, including chlorinated solvents, brominated flame retardants, PVC, heavy metals, plastics and gases, are used to make electronic products and their components—semiconductor chips, circuit boards, display panels, and disk drives.
A Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitor can contains between four and eight pounds of lead alone. Big screen tube TVs contain even more than that. Flat panel TVs and monitors contain less lead, but many use mercury lamps. About 40% of the heavy metals in landfills, including lead, mercury and cadmium, comes from electronic equipment discards. Indium is being used increasingly in semiconductor industry. Nanomaterials are being used in many products including some electronics, although the health and safety impacts of nanomaterials have barely been studied.
Where’s the Harm – Toxics Across The Product Lifecycle
These chemicals or materials can cause harm to workers and communities at any stage of the product lifecycle. Click on any phase of the lifecycle to see the details.
What Are The Health Risks?
Lead – The health effects of lead are well known; lead exposure causes brain damage in children and has already been banned from many consumer products.
Mercury –Mercury is toxic in very low doses, and causes brain and kidney damage. It can be passed on through breast milk; just 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury can contaminate 20 acres of a lake, making the fish unfit to eat.
Cadmium – Cadmium accumulates in the human body and poisons the kidneys.
BFRs – Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) may seriously affect hormonal functions critical for normal development. A recent study of dust on computers in workplaces and homes found BFRs in every sample taken. One group of BFRs, PBDEs, has been found in alarming rates in the breast milk of women in Sweden and the U.S.
- 2004 Poison PCs/Toxic TVs – Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
- The Fire Retardant Dilemma – Green Science Policy Inst.
What is Green Chemistry?
Green Chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. So instead of focusing on managing the impacts of the hazards in chemicals, a green chemist would develop safer chemicals and processes which don’t use or create those hazardous materials. Learn more about green chemistry.