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Microprocessors

Intel to eliminate toxic lead from its microprocessor chips

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: microprocessors, e-waste, health news

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(NewsTarget) Intel Corp. has announced plans to stop using lead as a soldering agent in its microprocessors. Lead is a chemical element with widespread industrial use. It is particularly useful as a semiconductor, due to its specific electrical and mechanical properties. The element, however, is a highly potent toxin known to cause blood and nervous system disorders, including mental dysfunction, especially in children.

Intel began phasing out the use of lead in its products in 2002, with the introduction of a tin-silver-copper soldering alloy. This alloy had replaced lead as a soldering agent in nearly all Intel chip sets and processors by 2004, with the exception of 0.02 grams of lead that continued to be used inside each chip.

This lead will now be eliminated in favor of the tin-silver-copper alloy, beginning with the Penryn line of processors. The company plans to have its microprocessors be lead-free by the end of the year, and to phase out lead in its 65-nanometer-process chips in 2008.

The use of toxic metals in electronics manufacture has become a serious health problem worldwide. High rates of obsolescence have contributed to a global "electronic waste" problem, in which vast quantities of electronics have been ending up as garbage, particularly in Third World countries that are paid to dispose of First World waste.

Unregulated disposal of this waste, whether by landfilling, burning or even disassembly for parts, exposes local workers, residents and ecosystems to a heavy toxic payload. Lead in particular is known for its ability to contaminate soil and groundwater.

According to Solving the E-waste Problem, a United-Nations-led alliance between three U.N. agencies, 16 businesses and several government agencies and universities, electronic waste is one of the fastest-growing types of trash in the world, with levels rapidly approaching 40 million metric tons per year.
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