A recent chemical analysis of dozens of models of smartphones reveals a hidden and ugly truth about our favorite tech. A collaborative report from HealthyStuff and ifixit.org reveals just what sort of chemical mess is inside your iOS and Android wonders out there. Just who makes the least and most toxic smartphones? Read on.
At the top of a long list of toxic technological toy/tools people carry around, the old iPhone 2G and the Palm m125 both contain a veritable miniaturized toxic waste dump of elements.The testers at ifixit used X-ray fluorescence spectrometry to test and rank 36 cell phone models from the above mentioned ones to the most recent iPhone, Galaxy, Motorola and other entries. Using a ranking scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the devices with the most alarming levels of toxins, the testers established some interesting (and some alarming) facts.
The good news is, in general smartphones are getting to be a good bit more user friendly where toxicity goes. It may interest readers to know the iPhone 4S and even iPhone 5 are far “cleaner” chemistry wise than their predecessors. The chart below, courtesy ifixit.org, shows the trend.
The bad news shows the Nokia N95, and the aforementioned Apple and Palm products to be of major concern.
The analysis of Apple’s products in general led HealthyStuff to believe the iPhone maker is cleaning up their toxicity act, the trend indicated iPhone’s successive models showing less harmful chemical compositions. In fact, the “cleaner” trend is pretty much industry wide. Chemicals in the iPhone and others still can cause manufacturing line workers issues. The same concerns over lead and other metal/toxin levels holds true not only for phone owners, but for all of us collectively however.
It is no secret that discarded phones and other electronics heap a tremendous mound of chemical waste into the environment. To quote from the ifixit report, authors of Cradle to Cradle William McDonough and Michael Braungart, state the problem of “throwing away” phones most aptly:
“Away does not really exist. Away has gone away. The chemicals inside phones have a serious and far-reaching global impact.”
Without going far afield into the environmental disaster that landfills are becoming, news of “lead from cathode ray tubes leaching into groundwater systems at more than three times the EPA regulatory limit” – well, these stories are the norm in some places rather than the extreme. The fact is, as the report suggests, your smart phone may well end up in your lungs when all is said and done.
To summarize, all is not gloom and doom when it comes to unhealthy smart devices. As this new report suggests, Apple and the other manufacturers seem to be “getting it” where going “green” with their products is concerned. The iPhone 2G and the other phones designated of “high concern” in this study illuminate the larger problem of safety and sustainability. While manufacturers are doing better, they are also ramping up production numbers as well. The overall effect of “more” smartphones, ends up tossing similar amounts of toxins into our ecosystems, if not our bodies.
This brings into question; “What can you as a consumer do to remedy fun phone toxicity?” Study these and other reports and factor in your product choices for your use and Earth friendliness, this is my suggestion. The video below from The Ecology Center, tells a bit more about smartphone toxins.
You can read the full report here at ifixit, and more charts via the HealthyStuff link up top.