Greenpeace takes aim at electronics industry

Greenpeace has given the electronics industry a complete kicking in a report on its environmental impact. In a report called Cutting Edge Contamination: A study of environmental pollution during the manufacture of electronic products, the pressure group said big name firms are polluting rivers and wells with hazardous chemicals. Greenpeace sampled water from industrial estates in China, Mexico, the Philippines and Thailand, from factories carrying out PCB manufacture, IC fabbing and component assembly. Analysts said they found polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), used as flame retardants, at the majority of sites, organic compounds such as tetrachloroethene and metals such as nickel, copper and zinc in groundwater or aquifers. Dr. Kevin Brigden from the Greenpeace Research Laboratories said:

Over recent years we have seen an increasing concern over the use of hazardous chemicals in electronic products but attention has focused on the contamination released during disposal or ‘recycling of electronic waste’. Our findings of contamination arising during the manufacturing stage make it clear that only when we factor in the complete life cycle will the full environmental costs of electronic devices begin to emerge.

Firms tested by Greenpeace included IBM, HP, Intel, Sony and Sanyo, On Semi, Kemet, Flextronics, Jabil, Solectron, and Sanmina. IBM was singled out for attack as Greenpeace claimed it had released specific hazardous compounds such as nonylphenol, said to be a “potent hormone disruptor”, into groundwater. Greenpeace wants more traceability between the manufacturer and the supplier of branded goods:

There is shockingly little information on precisely which major brand companies are supplied by which manufacturing facilities. Responsibility for the contamination lies as much with those brands as with the facilities themselves. There has to be full transparency regarding the supply chain within the electronics industry, so that brand owners are forced to take responsibility for the environmental impacts of producing their goods.

A copy of the report can be found at http://www.greenpeace.org/electronicsproductionreport

Tags: flame retardants, hazardous chemicals, hazardous compounds, kemet, nonylphenol

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