We wanted to know exactly how much progress had been made on
toxics in laptops in the last year. 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 Research Laboratories.
The report, "Toxic chemicals in computers - Reloaded", show
bromine 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, and Dell laptops had the highest.
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 from this reoprt 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
chemicals. 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
tested, Sony scores highest followed by Toshiba.
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 Dell, HP and Acer still have the
most work to do.