Michigan Network for Children's Environmental Health Blog
Is Your Phone Toxic?
Since 2004, I’ve carried a mobile phone with me just about everywhere that I go. This year I finally took the plunge and upgraded to a new smartphone. Now my smartphone and I are pretty much permanently attached. It has so many different utilities! Eighty-five percent of American adults own a mobile phone of some kind; 46% own a smartphone. Mobile phones may be the quintessential “everyday product” of our generation. So imagine my dismay when I learned about all the toxic chemicals lurking in my shiny new phone.
A new study released by HealthyStuff.org and iFixit.com reports that there is no such thing as a “green phone.” One hundred percent of the 36 different cell phones tested in this study contained toxic chemicals, including lead, bromine, chlorine, mercury, and cadmium. This study included the recently released iPhone 5, ranked 5th in toxicity out of the 36 phones tested, and the Samsung Galaxy S III, ranked 9th. The Motoroloa Citrus ranked as the least toxic phone followed by the iPhone 4 S and the LG Remarq. The most toxic phone tested was the iPhone 2G.
No matter which phone you have, it has toxic impacts from cradle to grave! According to HealthyStuff.org, the hazardous substances found in these phones create pollution throughout a product’s life cycle, including when the minerals are extracted, when the minerals are processed, when the phone is manufactured, and when the phone is at the end of its’ useful life. “Even the phones that ranked the best in our study are still loaded with toxic chemicals,” said Jeff Gearhart, Research Director at the Ecology Center and founder of HealthyStuff.org. “These chemicals are linked to birth defects, impaired learning and other serious health problems, and are running rampant in our landfills and leaching into soil and water supplies.”
This all sounds depressing, but the good news from this study is that the transition to safer alternatives is already underway. The iPhone 2G, introduced in 2007, ranked as the worst of the worst. Yet, the two most recent Apple phones, the 4s and 5, are among the best phones tested. This study shows that Apple, Sony, and Samsung have all made significant shifts in recent years toward using safer materials and chemistries. These companies are moving in the right direction, but we need to encourage them to continue improving the safety of their products.
Wouldn’t it be great if companies, like Apple—a leader in the technology industry for innovative product designs—decided to also become a leader in the fight for safer chemicals? Let’s show the phone manufacturing companies that we care what chemicals are being put into our phones. The next time you buy a new phone, consider the amount of chemicals that are in each model.
As for me and my smartphone, the iPhone 4s, we’re still quite in love. It tied for second on the list of safest phones, and actually has fewer toxic chemicals than the new iPhone 5. So if you’re an Apple fan on the fence about upgrading to the newest smartphone model, you might want to read this study first!