Contaminants Found in Computers…
What you need to know…
Outdated, unwanted and broken computers and other electronic equipment are known as e-waste (electronic waste). E-waste that is not disposed of properly is considered hazardous because it contains metals and other materials that can harm humans and the environment. Rapid advances in computer technology have resulted in a ballooning volume of outdated and discarded computers. The average life span of a computer is 2-3 years and items that break are usually discarded rather than repaired due to the relatively low price of replacement equipment. Obsolete and unwanted computers usually end up destined for landfills, incinerators or hazardous waste exports. Millions of computers and computer-related equipment become obsolete or “retired” every year.
The reuse of used electronics equipment and consumption of materials recovered from electronics to manufacture new products boosts the U.S. economy, creates jobs and sustains natural resources, conserves impressive amounts of energy in the manufacturing process and reduces greenhouse gas emissions from those facilities. Additionally, reuse & remanufacturing keeps these contaminants from the ground and air preventing ground water contamination.
-Found in chip resistors, infrared detectors, and semiconductors. Cadmium is persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic.
-Found in glass panels in computer monitors and in lead soldering of printed circuit boards. Lead can accumulate in the environment and have a detrimental effect on plants, animals, humans and water resources. One computer monitor can contain up to 8 pounds of lead. Consumer electronics may be responsible for 40% of the lead found in landfills. The principal pathway of concern is lead leaching from landfills and contaminating drinking water supplies.
-Found in position sensors, relays and switches (e.g., on printed circuit boards) and batteries. When mercury makes its way into waterways, it is transformed into methylated mercury in the sediments. Methylated mercury accumulates in living organisms and travels up the food chain.
Hexavalent Chromium or Chromium VI
-Used to protect against corrosion of untreated and galvanized steel plates. Major pathways are through landfill leachate or from fly ash generated when materials containing Chromium VI are incinerated.
Brominated Flame Retardants
-Found on printed circuit boards, semi-conductor components such as plastic covers and cables. Once released into the environment through landfill leachate and incarnation become concentrated in the food chain.