Greenpeace Study Shows Hazardous Materials Reduced But Not Eliminated From Laptop Computers

July 6, 2010

A Greenpeace investigation into hazardous materials in laptop computers shows that manufacturers have phased out use of some of the most toxic materials over the past year but still have a long way to go in eliminating others such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and phthalates, Greenpeace said today. Greenpeace purchased 18 laptops representing six different brands in 14 countries in Europe, North America, South America and Asia and sent them for analysis by an independent laboratory in Denmark and the Greenpeace Research Laboratories at Exeter University in the UK.

The analysis contained in the new report, “Toxic Chemicals in
Computers – Reloaded,” shows 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, while Dell
laptops had the highest number. PVC was found in 44 percent of all
plastic coating of 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

“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 Rick Hind, Legislative Director of the
Greenpeace toxics campaign. “Greenpeace’s goal is for computer
manufacturers to eliminate the use of toxic materials

The new report follows up on a similar Greenpeace investigation
into toxics in laptops sold in Europe in 2006 before the
introduction of European legislation on hazardous substances in
electrical and 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. These changes have been
implemented by all companies and not only for the European

“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, of the Greenpeace Research
Laboratories, who oversaw the sampling analyses and produced the
report. “Laws that aim to protect human health and the environment
must ultimately address all hazardous substances,” he added.

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. “By combining
toxic-free components already in use, this industry is clearly
capable of producing a toxic-free laptop,” added Hind. “The only
question is, which company will be the first.”

VVPR info: CONTACT: Jane Kochersperger, (202) 319-2493, or Rick Hind, (202) 319-2445

For a copy of the report, go to:

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