Dell, HP Call for European Ban on Toxics in Electronics

Dell, HP Call for European Ban on Toxics in Electronics

Electronics - CC license by Flickr user Rich Anderson

Major electronics companies and environmental groups are encouraging the European Union to ban polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and all types of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from all electronic products.

Acer, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Sony Ericsson have teamed up with ChemSec, Clean Production Action and the European Environmental Bureau to push for addition of those bans to the E.U.'s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive.

Safer alternatives already exists and are being used by many companies already, the companies and environmental groups say, and a ban of that magnitude across the E.U. would point everyone's supply chain in the same direction while bringing down costs and ramping up production of safer alternatives.
"Companies committed to innovation and green chemistry have paid a premium for safer products, we now need RoHS to level the playing field," said Alexandra McPherson, managing partner at Clean Production Action, in a statement.

When disposed of improperly or burned, PVC and BFRs produce dioxins, which are highly toxic substances that accumulate within humans and animals when they are exposed to them and are linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental problems and damage to immune systems.

The companies are seeking a ban on PVC and BFRs on all electronics put on the market after 2015.

All Sony Ericsson products are currently PVC-free, and its phones are 99.99 percent free of BFRs. By 2015, the company expects to be 100 percent BFR-free.

Dell has a number of products will reduced PVC and BFRs, and plans by the end of 2011 to have eliminated them from all new products globally.

A number of other PVC-fee and BFR-free products were highlighted by ChemSec in its Greening Consumer Electronics report last year, which found 155 electronics that are almost or completely free of the two materials. The products came from 28 companies, including Acer, Apple, Dell, HP, Nokia, Philips, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.

The RoHS directive currently restricts two types of BFRs, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury and some halogenated flame retardants (PBBs and PBDEs) in electronic products.

The European Parliament's Environment Committee will vote on proposed changes to RoHS in June, and the European Parliament will look at directive revisions in July.

Earlier this year, Greenpeace updated how it ranks companies in its Guide to Greener Electronics by including a score for whether or not companies support and lobby for PVC and BFR bans in RoHS.

Electronics - CC license by Flickr user Rich Anderson