Billions of electronics are created and sold yearly, and all are produced using hazardous materials that may harm workers, both in production, and in improper electronic waste facilities. Use the navigation buttons to learn more about what's in your device, and how you can get rid of it properly when its time to replace it.
Electronic products utilize a wide selection of materials in order to create common components, such as motherboards, hard drives, CPUs, etc. While these products are useful, they do contain compounds which may be harmful to humans, especially if they are stored or disposed of improperly. Additionally, many of these compounds are released while the computer is turned on. Below is a condensed list of a few.
Used as a solvent in plastics, and while a natural biproduct of sources like Volcanoes, people are most likely to be exposed to the chemical due to human activity. It is often experienced via new car smell. During manufacturing, benzene is most likely used to clean components coming off of the production line. While benzene evaporates quickly when exposed to air, hasty or improper packaging may cause an excess amount of the chemical to be included on the product.
An organic compound commonly used as a solvent. It is classified as a moderate hazard and when used should be handled with googgles, gloves, a ventilation system, and protective clothes.
Used as a solvent in manufacturing, it is classified as an o-zone depleating substance. It is a central nervous system depressant and causes similar effects as drunkenness. It is currently in the process of being phased out.
Organic compound, often used in varnishing, dyes and resins. Toxic to bone marrow and testicles.
Used as a solvent, commonly used in semicondouctor manufacturing. Toxic to the central nervous system, has been shown to damage lungs and kidneys
inorganic compound, highly toxic and flammable, compound of arsenic. Most commonly used in semiconductor manufacturering.
Used to clean metals, commonly used in electroplating. Corrosive to eyes, skin and membranes.
Currently it is common to see consumers setting out electronic waste with regular garbage. This is a practice that must change in that the materials used to create the components in a computer are inheritly hazardous, so placing them within landfills along side regular garbage could become problematic. Additionally, this also ignores the reusable materials found within computer components, thus making it an inefficient means for remvoing electronic waste.
Many states (see lobbying page for more details) mandate electronic waste recycling. As a result, it is now commonplace for manufactuers to include mail in recycling packages with new produt purchases and for retail locations to accept electronic waste for recycling and proper disposal. Even without this, there are
It's important to research electronic waste facilities in order to learn how they manage their waste. Facilities which are not properly screened may be involved in waste trading, where materials are sold to striping facilities in developing countries. Aside from the obvious environmental issues that would occur with unmanaged electronic waste stripping, this also leaves a large security vulnerability on devices which have not properly had their disk memory cleared.
Illegally exported electronic waste often finds is way into developing countries with poor, often illegal, material stripping plants. One notable example is Guiyu, China, which is the largest e-waste site on earth. Because the materials are being broken down by being burned off, many toxic components in electronic waste is sent into the air, so much so that 80% of children in Guiyu test positive for having dangerious amounts of lead in their blood.
There are presently international trading agreements which prohibit trading international electronic waste, however, these laws are weakly enforced and are likely to be ignored should immediate economic incentives outweigh longterm environmental interest. Additionally, laws must be passed wich bring responsibility for waste management to the consumer in order to prevent electronic waste from being disposed of along side normal trash.
The states marked in yellow presently have either active laws or laws due to come into effect which place mandates on electronic waste management. The states in grey do not have any laws pertaining to safely removing electronic waste. While the federal government has regulations that apply to waste management facilities, these regulations do not effect the average citizen where more action is neded in preventing improper electronic waste removal.
Aside from preventing improper disposal, it is important that illegal waste trade is prohibited so that situations such as in Guiyu cannot occur elsewhere. If corruption cannot be stemmed in places like Guiyu, then we must limit the flow of illegal electronic waste that enters the country. Pushing federal agencies and lawmakers into taking action to prevent waste trade would cut much of the illegal waste market.