Motherboard of a laptop during testing for hazardous substances.
We purchased 18 laptops from Acer, Apple, Dell, HP, Sony and
Toshiba in 14 countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia and sent
them for analysis by an independent laboratory and at our Exeter
The report, "Toxic chemicals in computers - Reloaded", show
bromine being present in over 40 percent of the components tested,
at concentrations of up to 10 percent by weight. Of the components
tested, Sony laptops were found to have the lowest number
containing bromine, Dell laptops had the highest number.
PVC was found in 44 percent of all plastic coating internal
wires and external cables that were tested. Phthalates were found
in the power cables supplied with all laptops, with the highest
levels in those of Acer and HP laptops.
The new report follows up our
investigation into toxics in laptops sold in Europe in 2006,
before EU legislation on hazardous substances in electronic
equipment, known as RoHS.
With the implementation of RoHS, computer manufacturers have
significantly reduced their use of lead, cadmium, mercury,
hexavalent chromium and certain brominated flame retardants.
The good news is these changes have been implemented by all
companies and not only for the European market where it is a
minimum legal requirement.
The analysis shows that, for almost every component found to
contain either bromine or plastic PVC, an equivalent component free
of these chemicals can be found in another laptop.
First computer free of the worst toxic chemicals?
In theory, by combining components from different machines, the
industry could already almost produce the first computer free of
the worst toxic chemicals. The question is, which company is going
to be the first to go the whole way?
"While levels of certain toxic chemicals in the laptop
components tested do not exceed current European standards, other
hazardous chemicals found in laptops are not yet covered by
European regulations," said Zeina Alhajj, Greenpeace International
"Greenpeace's goal is for computer manufacturers to eliminate
the use of toxic materials completely."
"The results demonstrate that legislation in one region can have
an influence even in countries where it does not yet apply.
However, even where they do exist, current laws fail to regulate
all hazardous chemicals in laptops, or in other electrical
equipment, "said Dr. Kevin Brigden from the Greenpeace Research
Laboratories who oversaw the sampling analyses and produced the
report. "Laws which aim to protect human health and the environment
must ultimately address all hazardous substances," he added.
Who's making the most progress?
We have been working since 2004 to push all the computer
companies mentioned in the report to eliminate the worst toxic
They have all published plans to drop these chemicals in 2008/9
(with the exception of HP) from all their products. These plans
form part of the companies' scores in our
Guide to Greener Electronics.
Our ranking guide also scores companies on whether they have
already computer models free of PVC and BFRs on the market. Based
on this criterion, out of the computer companies whose laptops we
Sony scores highest followed by
On the basis of this test, it seems Sony is closest to the goal
of eliminating toxic chemicals from computers.
Apple is making progress since the last test but
Acer still have the most work to do.
You can keep the pressure up by writing to the CEO's of the top computer firms to challenge them to produce a greener computer.
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