Toxins in Computers
For more detailed information click on the toxin.
- Barium (CRT): Intestinal illness, muscular weakness
- (electronics): Can damge bones, cause cancer
- Springs, relays, clips and connections on boards where flexibility in copper is needed
- copper-beryllium alloy (typically 98% copper, 2% beryllium)
Beryllium = known human carcinogen
Beryllium dust (from shredding) & fumes (from high temp metal refining processes) can cause berylliosis with permanent lung scarring, and can be fatal
- (batteries and circuit boards): Kidney, liver, bone, and blood damage
- Some contacts, switches
- Rechargeable nickel-cadmium (NiCd) batteries, e.g. in laptops
- Used as a stabilizer in some PVC formulations, e.g. wire insulation
- On some circuit boards in plated contacts and switches
- Cadmium sulphide used in older CRTs’ phosphors coating
- Highly toxic to plants, animals and humans, causing kidney and bone damage at low levels, heart disease, & hypertension.
- Known human carcinogen.
- (CRT, circuit boards): Vascular and kidney disease, brain disorders in young children
- Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) in the form of lead oxide (PbO)
- Frit between CRT face plate and funnel (79% lead)
- Lead acid batteries (UPS, battery backups)
- Lead solder in almost all electronics prior to 2006 RoHS Directive
- PVC sheathing in cables
- In some circuit board components
Impacts: Exposure can cause damage to reproductive, blood and nervous systems, brain development, kidneys.
- (plastics, cables, CRTs): endocrine disruptor, neurotoxin
- (LCD, flat panel displays, batteries): kidney damage
All fluorescent lamps:
- in most LCD screens, e.g. laptops; TVs; some cell phones and PDAs; optical scanners of some copiers, scanners
- fax machines; gaming devices, etc.
- Phosphors powder in mercury lamps contain mercury
Mercury relay switches (e.g. in older mainframe equipment)
Some button cell batteries
UHP lamps used in data projectors and rear projection televisions (contained within a small bulb within the lamp)
Military electronic equipment contains higher levels of mercury
Bioaccumulative & biomagnifies, travels globally
Highly toxic to central nervous system and kidneys
Brominated Flame Retardants
- Most plastic housings
- In printed circuit boards (approx 20% bromine)
- PVC sheathing around cable and wires
Neurological impairment, endocrine disruptor, impacts on liver, fetal development, immune system
Organobromine compounds – persistent & bioaccumulative
- Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDEs)
- Tetrabromobisphenol-A (TBBPA)
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
- Capacitors, ballasts, insulation, etc.
Neurological impairment, endocrine disruptor, impacts on liver, fetal development, & immune system
A toxic Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP), now banned in all applications.
- Hexavalent chromium (steel): liver, kidney, nerve tissues
- Phosphorus (CRT): skin, eye, and stomach irritation
The following are links to info about e-waste: