Submitted: The Two Sides Team October 5, 2012
IT managers may find a new study incredibly useful: It ranks 36 different phones released in the last five years based on the
relative concentration and presence of toxic chemicals. Ten mobile phone manufacturers, including Apple, Motorola, Hewlett-
Packard, LG Electronics, Nokia and Samsung were included in the study, which was a joint effort between Ann Arbor-based
Ecology Center and ifixit.com.
October 4 2012
by Lenika Cruz – GreenBiz
Luckily, you don’t have to worry about that, as Apple’s latest mobile
phone got a clean bill of health from organizations that studied toxics
in mobile phones.
IT managers may find the new study
incredibly useful: It ranks 36 different phones released in the last
five years based on the relative concentration and presence of toxic
chemicals. Ten mobile phone manufacturers, including Apple, Motorola,
Hewlett-Packard, LG Electronics, Nokia and Samsung were included in the
study, which was a joint effort between Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center
Apple recently made headlines on another green-products front, when it reversed, after just a few days, its much-maligned decision to withdraw
from the EPEAT green electronics registry, which many governments and
companies use to determine their electronics purchasing policies.
The Ecology Center study looked at levels of toxins like mercury and
lead in components such as the screen, solder and processor. Phones were
ranked on a qualititative scale from “Low” to “Medium” to “High” and
were also given a numeric rating from 2.6 (the lowest score) to 5.0 (the
highest). A lower score indicates that less toxic chemicals were
present, while a higher score signals a more-toxic profile.
Samsung phones had the highest average rating of all phones tested.
While Apple showed the greatest improvement of any manufacturer in the
study among phone models released in the last five years, none of the
phones tested was free of toxic chemicals.
Even the best phones from our study are still loaded with chemical
hazards, said Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center
and founder of HealthyStuff.org. These chemicals, which are linked to
birth defects, impaired learning and other serious health problems, have
been found in soils at levels 10 to 100 times higher than background
levels at e-waste recycling sites in China. We need better federal
regulation of these chemicals, and we need to create incentives for the
design of greener consumer electronics.
The iPhones 4S and 5 were among only six phones with scores below
3.0, at 2.75 and 2.69, respectively. At 2.56, the Motorola Citrus
clocked in with the lowest score. Also given top marks: the LG Remarq,
the Samsung Captivate and the Samsung Evergreen. The vast majority of
phones evaluated — about two-thirds — fell in the “Medium” category.
The iPhone 4 just missed a “Low” ranking, as did the Samsung Reclaim and
Galaxy S III.
The study’s worst rankings highlight the evolution of Apple’s
products over the last few years. The iPhone 2G, released in 2007, was
given a solid 5.0, with high levels of bromine, mercury, chlorine, lead
and other chemicals. Also in the 2G’s company among phones with high
scores: the Palm M125, the Motorola MOTO W233 Renew, the Nokia N95 and
the BlackBerry Storm 9530.
IT managers concerned about toxic chemical exposure should look to
newer phone models, as the study showed overall product ratings have
improved by a third since 2007, and leading manufacturers have begun a
shift to safer materials and chemistries.
Among the changes manufacturers are making:
Using less hazardous resins, including thermoplastic copolymers and
polyamide to replace PVC in cabling and other applications;
- Avoiding the need for cabling through simplified design
- Using mercury-free LCD displays and arsenic-free glass
- Using bromine- and chlorine-free printed circuit board laminates
- Moving to less toxic, reactive phosphorous-based flame retardant chemistries
Consumer demand for more sustainable mobile phones is driving
companies to produce better products, said Gearhart. We also need
better federal and international policy to manage both chemicals and
e-waste, as well as to promote sustainable design.