Apple, Sony Ericsson Lead in Removing Harmful Chemicals from Electronics

by | Oct 7, 2009

chemicals-dioxinsApple and Sony Ericsson are among the leaders in the electronics industry to move away from using chemicals that can lead to health and environmental problems, according to a new report released by ChemSec and Clean Production Action, two nonprofit organizations.

The report, Greening Consumer Electronics: Moving Away from Bromine and Chlorine (PDF),” features seven companies that have engineered environmental solutions that eliminate the need for most, or in some cases all, uses of brominated and chlorinated chemicals.

Researchers say high-volume uses of bromine and chlorine in flame-retardant and plastic-resin applications such as brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) gained worldwide attention when scientific studies demonstrated their link to the formation of highly toxic dioxin compounds.

Dioxin, a human carcinogen that is toxic in very low amounts, along with other problematic compounds, are unintentionally released into the environment during the burning and smelting of electronic waste, according to the report.

The current recycling and waste infrastructure to safely reuse and recycle obsolete equipment is insufficient, and much of the waste is increasingly shipped to developing countries with even less capacity for appropriate waste management, according to researchers.

The seven companies — Apple, Sony Ericsson, Seagate, DSM Engineering Plastics, Nan Ya, Indium and Silicon Storage Technology — featured in this report demonstrate best industry practices and provide guidance for the development of environmentally-sound industry-wide standards and policies, said researchers.

Here are some reasons, cited by researchers, why these companies are leaders in eliminating harmful chemicals from electronics products:

Apple (U.S.): Apple established a program that restricts the use of nearly all bromine and chlorine compounds across all its product lines. The company now offers a wide range of PVC- and BFR-free consumer products including iPhones and iPods, as well as computers that are free of BFRs and most uses of PVC.

Sony Ericsson (UK): Sony Ericsson is removing substances of concern from its products, and is establishing full chemical inventories for all its product lines. The company’s products are now 99.9 percent BFR free and will have no PVC components by the end of 2009.

Seagate (U.S.): The largest disk-drive manufacturer in the world is now creating new disk drives that no longer use chlorine- and bromine-based chemistries. This success was largely facilitated by the company’s full material disclosure system.

DSM Engineering Plastics (Netherlands): This major plastic materials manufacturer is among the first to offer a complete portfolio of engineering plastics that are free of bromine and chlorine. The firm developed and produced a new high-temperature polyamide 4T polymer with bromine-free grades for connectors and sockets as well as a thermoplastic co-polyester that can be used as a replacement for PVC-based wire and cables.

Nan Ya (Taiwan) and Indium (U.S.): Nan Ya, a major laminate manufacturer, and Indium, a high-end manufacturer of solder paste and flux, both overcame major technical challenges to produce bromine- and chlorine-free components for printed circuit boards that met the same reliability standards of their halogenated counter parts.

Silicon Storage Technology Inc. (U.S.): This semiconductor manufacturer was the first in the industry to supply Apple and others with bromine-free chips.

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