Contaminated Computers

Is your computer loaded? I don't mean with software, speed, memory, and stuff. I mean with lead, mercury, polyvinyl chloride, and other toxins.

The answer is yes, though very few consumers are aware of it, and the giant computer makers are dead set against telling us about this dirty little secret of their industry. Indeed, this is an industry that likes to brag that it is clean and green, unlike the smokestack industries of the "old economy."

But your personal computer typically contains about four pounds of toxic materials, including: lead, contained in the cathode ray tubes and circuit boards, which can damage the central nervous system; mercury, contained in the flat panel displays and switches, which can cause brain and kidney damage and birth defects; and PC's, contained in the soft plastics of the wires, which can produce deadly dioxins.

Four pounds per computer quickly adds up to real problems, since there are some 300 million computers that will be discarded in the U.S alone in the next couple of years. Computer workers, our environment, and whole communities are unnecessarily endangered by this load of toxins.

It's unnecessary because alternative materials are available to the corporations making these dirty machines, and because the industry could implement take-back programs to remove the toxic materials and properly recycle the discarded computers -- as is already done in Japan and much of Europe. U.S. makers, however, have bluntly declared: "Manufacturers are not recyclers," adding that "consumers will tell manufacturers what they want."

This is Jim Hightower saying ... How convolutedly convenient! The industry doesn't tell consumers about the toxic contamination of computers, then it assumes that since it's not getting complaints, consumers approve of the toxins. To find out how your computer-maker ranks on the dirty scale, get the Consumer Report Card from the Silicon Valley Toxins Coalition: 408-287-6707.

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