How toxic is the iPhone 5?

Would you buy the iPhone 5 if you knew it was full of toxics? 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 and ifixit.com.

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.”

Next page: How the iPhone 5 scored