Go IBM! First Company to Achieve Full Phase-Out of Two Notorious Toxic Compounds

IBM computer chip photo

Photo via Marcin Wichary via Flickr CC

IBM deserves big props today. The company announced earlier this week that it has eliminated the use of perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) compounds from its chip manufacturing processes - an industry first. The two compounds are toxic to both humans and wildlife, building up in human bodies. Eliminating them from chips helps just that much more in the persistent problem of toxic e-waste. While this is a necessary move, it can be a difficult one. IBM lines out the challenges of deleting these materials from their manufacturing. Greener Computing reports, "IBM's move was part of a larger design for environmental program that drives the company to make products that are environmentally friendly, energy efficient, reusable, recyclable and safely disposable. It took several years for the company to eliminate all known uses of PFOS and PFOA, which are used specifically to both imprint designs and embed patterns on silicon chips."

The reason it takes so long is because alternatives have to be found that don't diminish the quality of the finished product. And when it comes to our electronics, we tend to be a picky bunch with high expectations.

"Developing alternatives for these chemicals was an ambitious technological challenge," Michael Cadigan, IBM's general manager of microelectronics, said in a statement. "The transition to the new formulations had to be implemented and qualified across a large array of processes without impacting customer product delivery commitments. In addition, several companies in at least five countries have had access to this leadership solution through their technology development alliances with IBM."

But the challenges are no reason to stop being diligent in phasing out any material known to be toxic. (Samsung...you listening?) IBM has been working hard on moving towards more environmentally friendly practices, products and services, most notable being its Smarter Planet initiative. The company currently ranks fourth on Corporate Responsibility Magazine's Best Corporate Citizens list, thanks to efforts like these. You can see a full list of the materials IBM has committed to phase out over the years and you can read IBM's full statement about the achievement.

Keep up the good work IBM...there's lots more to accomplish!

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