:eek: By Rachel Konrad
SAN FRANCISCO, June 3 AP -
Toxic dust'' found oncomputer processors and monitors contains chemicalslinked to reproductive and neurological disorders,according to a new study by several environmentalgroups. The survey, released today by Silicon Valley ToxicsCoalition, Computer TakeBack Campaign and CleanProduction Action, is among the first to identifybrominated flame retardants on the surfaces of commondevices in homes and offices. Electronics companies began using polybrominateddiphenyl (PBDEs) and other flame retardants in the1970s, arguing that the toxins prevent fires and cannot escape from plastic casings. The study found that tiny particles of the toxic chemicals are leaching out, escaping into the air and attaching to ordinary dust on the computer equipment. This will be a great surprise to everyone who uses acomputer,’’ said Ted Smith, director of the ToxicsCoalition.
``The chemical industry is subjecting us all to what amounts to chemical trespass by putting these substancesinto use in commerce. They continue to use theirchemicals in ways that are affecting humans and otherspecies.’’
Researchers collected samples of dust from dozens ofcomputers in eight states, including university computerlabs in New York, Michigan and Texas, legislativeoffices in California, and an interactive computerdisplay at a children’s museum in Maine. They tested forthree types of brominated flame retardants suspected tobe hazardous.
The most toxic piece of equipment discovered by theresearchers was a new flat-screen monitor in auniversity in New York, implying that newer equipmentisn’t necessarily cleaner.
Penta- and octa-brominated diphenyl will be taken offthe market by the end of the year. Environmental groupsare demanding legislation that would ban deca-brominateddiphenyl, too.
PBDEs, which have caused neurological damage inlaboratory rats in numerous studies, are related topolychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), used in fireextinguishers, fluorescent lights and liquid insulatorssince the 1920s.
PCBs were outlawed in the 1970s, but the toxins don’terode and still persist in the environment.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry,part of the US Department of Health and Human Services,and several other organisations have confirmed PCBsdamage the brains of human foetuses.
Scientists have not directly correlated exposure toPBDEs with specific diseases or developmentalimpairment, although researchers are studying possiblelinks between brominated flame retardants and autism.
Independent researchers who reviewed the new study sayconsumers shouldn’t throw out their computers, and theyneedn’t wear special gloves or minimise exposure tocomputer monitors.
There’s no known way to remove dust-born PBDEs, sospecial wipes or sprays wouldn’t significantly reducechemical exposure.
Researchers for the Toxics Coalition believe that theywould get similar results on televisions and otherelectronic equipment, but this study only testedcomputers.
The electronics industry has been reducing oreliminating some brominated flame retardants since thelate 1990s, when European countries began prohibitingthe sale of products that contain the chemicals.
Dell Inc and many other computer makers continue usinga flame retardant related to PBDEs on circuit boards.They use lead, mercury and other toxins in centralprocessing units and monitors. But Dell, along withApple Computer Inc. and others, stopped using PBDEs in2002.
:eek: By Rachel Konrad