Hazards of IT Material Recovery

While not putting end-of-life equipment directly into the waste stream to be landfilled or incinerated is a good first step, if the equipment is not recycled properly more environmental and health damage can be caused than if the equipment was just thrown in the trash. Some of the toxic materials that can cause environmental and health damage include:

▲ Lead, which can cause severe damage to the blood-forming, nervous, urinary, and reproductive systems in the body, is used in large amounts in CRT displays and is also found in the solder used to assemble the circuit boards.

▲ Cadmium, which is a carcinogen and can cause kidney damage, is used in semiconductors and printed circuit boards.

▲ Mercury, which is more toxic than lead, cadmium, and even arsenic, is found in batteries and switches.

▲ Polybrominated flame retardants that can cause nervous system problems are used in the plastics in the case and keyboard.

While none of these materials are hazardous to the user during normal use, the problems occur when these materials leach out of landfills or are released into the air when incinerated. See Figure 9-1 to see where these hazards exist in a typical computer.

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