Study: Computer 'toxic dust' linked to diseases
 
Thursday, June 3, 2004 Posted: 8:13 PM EDT (0013 GMT)
 

SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) -- "Toxic dust" found on computer processors and monitors contains chemicals linked to reproductive and neurological disorders, according to a new study by several environmental groups.
 
The survey, released Thursday by Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Computer TakeBack Campaign and Clean Production Action, is among the first to identify brominated flame retardants on the surfaces of common devices in homes and offices.
 
Electronics companies began using polybrominated diphenyl (PBDEs) and other flame retardants in the 1970s, arguing that the toxins prevent fires and cannot escape from plastic casings.
 
"This will be a great surprise to everyone who uses a computer," said Ted Smith, director of the Toxics Coalition. "The chemical industry is subjecting us all to what amounts to chemical trespass by putting these substances into use in commerce. They continue to use their chemicals in ways that are affecting humans and other species."
 
Researchers collected samples of dust from dozens of computers in eight states, including university computer labs in New York, Michigan and Texas, legislative offices in California, and an interactive computer display at a children's museum in Maine. They tested for three types of brominated flame retardants suspected to be hazardous.
 
Penta- and octa-brominated diphenyl will be taken off the market by the end of the year. Environmental groups are demanding legislation that would ban deca-brominated diphenyl, too.
 
PBDEs, which have caused neurological damage in laboratory rats in numerous studies, are related to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
 
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and several other organizations have confirmed that PCBs damage brains of human fetuses.
 
There's no known way to remove dust-born PBDEs, so special wipes or sprays wouldn't reduce chemical exposure.
 
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With us, people can be very confident about their new computer purchase.  We've worked a lot with suppliers, and we require audits and material data sheets on all our products. It's an important topic to be aware of, and brominated flame retardants are something we've been very focused on and will continue to be focused on.
 
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