HCL responds to Greenpeace challenge, agrees to present toxics phase out plan

Press release - March 20, 2007
NEW DELHI, India — Taking its campaign against hazardous e-products to the HCL doorstep in Noida, Greenpeace activists today slammed the company for producing computers using highly toxic substances that have the potential to impact both the environment and health of end users. Dressed in hazmat suits, they presented a giant replica of a HCL laptop to the company with the demand: “HCL: Clean up.” Responding to Greenpeace challenge, HCL executive vice president (commercial), Mr. Suman Ghosh Hazra promised to announce the company’s toxics phase out policy in next couple of days.

Greenpeace activists challenging HCL a leading Indian PC manufacturing company with the evidence of highly toxic substances used in their products at its Noida head quarters.

In a subsequent press conference in New Delhi, Greenpeace released its test report, "Analysis of Hazardous Substances in a HCL laptop Computer" (1) that prompted this demand. The report shows that the HCL laptop has many hazardous substances in its components including lead, PVC, bromine and phthalates (2). These findings came from an investigation carried out on a HCL laptop at the Greenpeace Research Laboratory and at the laboratories of Eurofins, Denmark.

"It is unfortunate that an industry leader like HCL has failed to make its product toxics free. This company, whose vision is to create the enterprises of tomorrow, still produces hazardous laptops of yesterday," said Greenpeace toxic campaigner, Ramapati Kumar. "The company has  to live up to its vision and come out with a time-bound plan to remove toxic substances from its products, and make a commitment to introducing a full take-back system for end-of-life products.

The testing showed that in the laptop, lead was found in 4 of 10 electrical solders tested. A wide range of materials contained bromine. Both internal components (some printed circuit boards, the cooling fan, a chip, electrical insulating material, as well as internal plastic sockets for ribbon cables, a pin connector and the external battery) and external components (a mouse button and the external battery casing) were found to contain bromine. PVC was present in the plastic coatings of all 6 of the wires and cables tested (both internal and external). Phthalates were present in the outer plastic coating of the cable between the DC power transformer and the laptop, with a very high total concentration of 18% - almost a fifth of the total weight of the material. 

Last year, Wipro, a leading electronics manufacturer agreed to phase out highly toxic chemicals and offer RoHS (the European Union Directive on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment) compliant products from 1st June 2007. The company has also taken initiative to set up a system to ensure take-back of their e-waste discarded by individual customers. Global PC manufactures like Dell, HP, Acer, Lenevo and mobile manufacturers like Nokia, Sony, Sony-Ericsson, Samsung and LG have already committed to phase out certain hazardous chemicals from their products with timelines.

Greenpeace wants the electronics industry to design products that are free from hazardous substances, easy to recycle, and do not expose workers - both in production and recycling.  They must implement individual producer responsibility (IPR) for full take-back of their products at their end of life. Greenpeace calls upon the electronics industry to go beyond the EU RoHS directive and eliminate all hazardous chemicals, including all types of BFRs, phthalates and PVC plastic.

For further information, contact

Ramapati Kumar, Toxics Campaigner, Greenpeace India @ M-09845535414,

Dr. Kevin Brigden, Greenpeace Research Laboratory, UK @ +44 1392 2637 82

Saumya Tripathy, Greenpeace India Communications @ M- 09880821149

Notes to Editor

(1) Greenpeace purchased one HCL laptop (model Ax 00014) in Bangalore, India in August 2006, and the presence of certain hazardous substances was investigated in a wide variety of internal and external components in Greenpeace Research Laboratory. Test Analysis report is available at www.greenpeace.org/india/press/reports/hcl-report

(2) Effects of hazardous substances on human health

LEAD: Lead is highly toxic to humans, as well as to animals and plants. It can build up in the body through repeated exposure and have irreversible effects on the nervous system, particularly the developing nervous system in children. Lead is one of the chemicals that are restricted under the EU RoHS Directive.
BFRs: This study found bromine in approximately half of the materials tested. High bromine content is likely to result from the use of a brominated flame retardant (BFR) formulation, though this study did not investigate the chemical form in which the bromine was present. Long-term exposure to some BFRs (certain PBDEs) has been associated with abnormal brain development in animals, with possible long-term impacts on memory, learning and behavior. The presence of PBDE and TBBPA, or other bromine containing chemicals, in electronics products has the potential to generate brominated dioxins and furans, when the electronic waste comes to be smelted, incinerated or burnt in the open. Brominated dioxins and furans may be of equivalent toxicity to chlorinated dioxins and furans, chemical compounds widely recognized as some of the most toxic chemicals many being toxic even in very low concentrations.
PVC: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a chlorinated plastic used in some electronic products and for insulation on wires and cables. PVC is one of the most widely used plastics, but its production, use and disposal can create toxic pollution. Chlorinated dioxins and furans are released when PVC is produced or disposed of by incineration (or simply burning). Dioxins and furans are classes of chemical compounds widely recognised as some of the most toxic chemicals ever made by humans and many are toxic even in very low concentrations.