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Originally published June 26 2006

As e-waste problem grows, Dell and other PC makers eliminate toxic chemicals from computers

by NaturalNews

(NaturalNews) A nine-country survey conducted for Greenpeace by Ipsos-Mori shows that PC consumers would be willing to pay nearly $200 extra for a computer containing fewer chemicals. The study corresponded with a recent move by Dell to gradually eliminate some of the toxic chemicals used in the production of its products.

A separate report, published in 2004 by United Nations University, shows that the average PC uses 10 times its weight in hazardous chemicals and fossil fuels during production. The short life of computer hardware is also contributing to a rapidly growing heap of toxic waste, especially in India and China. About 70 percent of lead, mercury and other heavy-metal pollutants come from electronic waste. Thirty million computers are trashed every year in the United States alone.

The hazardous waste often used to make PCs includes: antimony trioxide, a flame retardant; arsenic and lead, used in cathode ray tubes; cadmium, used in the production of circuit boards and semiconductors; chromium in steel, which provides the unit's corrosion protection; cobalt in steel, which usually makes up a PC's structure and helps shield against magnetic fields; mercury used in both the switches and housing; polybrominated flame retardants used in plastic casings, cables and circuit boards; and selenium used in circuit boards as power supply rectifier.

In addition to the willingness to pay extra for more eco-friendly machines, those surveyed said manufacturers should take responsibility for the disposal of defunct PCs.

Greenpeace saluted Dell for its decision to use fewer hazardous chemicals, but noted that makers such as HP, Nokia, Sony and others have already announced similar plans. Other companies such as Acer, Apple, Siemens, IBM, Lenovo, Panasonic and Toshiba have not commented on any changes.

Greenpeace singled out Motorola as the only one of the top five cellular phone manufacturers that has not removed toxic waste from its production process, and says it has "backtracked" on environmental promises made previously.


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