Hazardous chemicals in electronic products
1. Lead can be found in solders, although decreasingly, in the glass of cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors and as a stabiliser in PVC. It is highly toxic and exposure to lead can result in irreversible damage to the nervous system, particularly in children, which can lead to intellectual impairment.
2. Mercury, used in lighting devices for most flat-screen displays, can damage the brain and central nervous system, particularly during early development.
3. Cadmium, used in rechargeable computer batteries, contacts and switches and in older CRTs, can accumulate in the body over time and is highly toxic, primarily affecting the kidneys and bones. Cadmium and its compounds are also known human carcinogens.
4. Beryllium, used as a metal alloy in electrical contacts and as beryllium oxide in the semiconductor industry, is a human carcinogen and inhalation of fumes and dusts can cause lung disease.
5. Compounds of hexavalent chromium, used in the production of metal housings, are highly toxic and human carcinogens.
6. Some BFRs used in circuit boards and plastic casings do not break down easily and can build up in the environment, and some BFRs are also highly bio-accumulative (build up in the body). Long-term exposure to certain polybrominated diphyenylethers has been linked to abnormal brain development in animals, with possible impacts on learning, memory and behaviour. Some BFRs can also interfere with thyroid and oestrogen hormone systems and exposure in the womb has been linked to behavioural problems. Incineration or any kind of burning of plastics containing BFRs can cause the release of persistent dioxins and furans.
7. PVC is a chlorinated plastic used in some electronics products, including for insulation on wires and cables. Although not directly toxic, it is a major source of pollution and chemical hazard at all stages of its life cycle. In its softened form (as found in cables), PVC requires the use of additives such as hazardous phthalates, including di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate and di-n-butyl phthalate, which are known as reproductive toxins. Incineration or any kind of burning of PVC can cause the release of persistent and toxic chlorinated dioxins and furans.