How many chemicals does your cell phone expose you to on a daily basis? A study by healthystuff.org found toxic chemicals in 36 of the most popular phones on the market, including all versions of Apple’s iPhone. Among the 12 different chemicals tested for, the cell phones tested positive for lead, cadmium, and mercury –some of the most harmful and carcinogenic to humans.
The problems begin when products are manufactured with combinations of many heavy metals and continue to inflict severe environmental damage long after they are discarded. Greenpeace has outlined some of the most harmful chemicals found in electronics and their effects all of which can and do bio-accumulate in the environment. These are not limited to, but include:
- Lead- particularly harmful to pregnant women and children, causing birth and developmental defects.
- Cadmium- causes damage to the lungs and kidneys.
- Mercury- Also specifically harmful to pregnant women and children, impairing neurological development and birth defects.
- Polyvinyl Carbonate (PVC)- releases harmful and toxic chemicals especially when burned, as it would be in a disposal plant.
- Bromated Flame Retardants- Disruptive to hormone systems and causes learning and memory impairment.
How can you protect your personal health along with the well-being of the planet? Proper disposal of electronic devices is essential. Even when electronics leave our homes and go into the garbage, they can get back into our bodies through water, food, and exposure to outdoor elements.
Learn more how to safely dispose of toxic electronics and keep chemicals out of the environment through our extensive recycling resources on our website.
When purchasing new electronic and computer equipment, one way for companies to be more conscientious is to choose vendors that have sustainability certifications. The following are certifications used for electronic equipment and ensure that the product has met or exceeded certain requirements for energy, resource and toxic chemical use.
Energy Star is by far the most well-known environmental certification. It is essentially a cooperative effort of the EPA and the DOE. Many think of refrigerators when they think of Energy Star ratings. However, the system extends to notebooks, desktops, monitors, all-in-one devices, and scanners. These electronic devices must usually meet two standards. First, they must automatically go into a “low-power” mode when they are not being used. Second, they can only use a certain maximum of power when they are being used. The DOE is promoting energy savings and the EPA wants to decrease greenhouse gases.
Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is an online tool that assists buyers to evaluate products using environmental criteria. It looks at 51 elements in eight different categories. It is derived from IEEE Standard 1680-2006. There are rating levels named Gold, Silver, and Bronze. A bronze rating is awarded when all 23 required standards are met. The upgrade to silver occurs when those criteria are met, along with at least half of the other 28 optional standards. Finally, the Gold award goes to products that meet the required standards and 3/4 of the optional ones. At the EPEAT website one can scroll to the product that they need and quickly determine specific items that are EPEAT certified.
Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) is a set of standards regarding dangerous substances in electronics that comes from the European Union (EU). These standards do allow for “trace amounts” in some cases. It does set specific standards for limiting the amount of cadmium, mercury, lead, etc. that can be present in a product. Today, one can select the certifications that your organization wants to meet, and then locate the products that meet the standards.
Our consultants can guide you further in your pursuit of green products and how to choose them. Please contact us for further information.
Green IT is defined to create more environmentally friendly ways to manufacture, use and dispose of computer equipment in our homes and offices around the world. The steps toward minimizing the environmental impact from our digital world is one that’s not as easy as it appears. When you realize how much computers are relied upon today and made in specific ways, it becomes complicated in changing their environmental footprint.
While the manufacturing materials of our computers probably won’t change in the immediate term, computers can still be recycled so the materials used in them can be used in new products. Unfortunately, the metals of gold and copper used in computers aren’t recovered as much as they should be. On Greenitweek.org, it’s noted that computers contain more chemicals than you likely ever knew, and those can end up in the environment when a computer isn’t recycled responsibly.
Here are some simple and easy steps businesses can do to support the Green IT movement:
- Purchase electronic equipment that is energy star compliant.
- Support electronics vendors who have a sustainability focus and program.
- Turn off all computers and electronic equipment at night. This can save over $100 per piece of equipment per year.
- Support electronics vendors who take back their equipment and recycle responsibly.
- Use an e-waste vendor to recycle electronics responsibly. You can find a national database of proper recycling centers for computers through the General Services Administration.