The folks at the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center and iFixit partnered up to test smart phones and how much of which toxic materials each contain, including a check for lead, bromine, chlorine, mercury and cadmium as well as 30 other materials. They looked at 36 different phones, including the highly popular and competitive iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III. The results are a reminder of how far we are from "healthy" phones.
Out of the 36 phones tested, and the 1,105 samples used for the test, every single one was found to contain hazardous materials. The Motorola Citrus was found to be the least toxic. Second place was taken by the iPhone 4 S while the iPhone 5 ranked 5th -- another reason not to upgrade but to keep your existing phone longer! Well, that is unless you have the iPhone 2G, which ranked as the most toxic. Yikes. The Samsung Galaxy S III ranked 9th, placing it at a disadvantage against the iPhone in their fierce fight for top spot in the marketplace, at least among those who care about what materials they're carrying in their pockets. Here are the full results for each phone.As HeathyStuff.org notes, "These hazardous substances can pollute throughout a product’s life cycle, including when the minerals are extracted; when they are processed; during phone manufacturing; and at the end of the phone’s useful life. Emissions during disposal and recycling of phones as electronic waste, or “e-waste,” are particularly problematic. The mining of some tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold used in mobile phones has been linked to conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo."
So it's not just about how the materials impact you personally -- it's how they impact the entire planet, from human rights to environmental health.
“Even the best phones from our study are still loaded with chemical hazards,” said Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center and founder of HealthyStuff.org. “These chemicals, which are linked to birth defects, impaired learning and other serious health problems, have been found in soils at levels 10 to 100 times higher than background levels at e-waste recycling sites in China. We need better federal regulation of these chemicals, and we need to create incentives for the design of greener consumer electronics.”
Of course, it's up to consumers to demand that their smart phones be as toxin-free as possible. So, if you're wanting to carry around something a bit less deadly, let manufacturers know as much.