Getting Bromine and Chlorine Out of Electronics

Chlorine's oxidizing power has implicated its various forms in damage to everything from human DNA to the ozone layer. So I noted with interest a new report about the technology industry from Clean Production Action (CPA), whose mission is to "design and deliver strategic solutions for green chemicals, sustainable materials and environmentally preferable products."

CPA's Greening Consumer Electronics: Moving Away from Bromine and Chlorine , cites two tech product companies, Apple and Sony Ericsson, and five component suppliers "that have moved beyond compliance with regulatory mandates and engineered environmental solutions that negate the need for most – and in some cases all – uses of brominated and chlorinated chemicals. "

Notable is how the two product electronics companies worked with their supply chains to solve the problem:

"Apple and Sony Ericsson worked closely with their suppliers to develop new components that met the necessary technical and safety performance specifications, as well as material restrictions on bromine and chlorine use in products. this has led the largest disk drive manufacturer in the world, Seagate, to create new drives that no longer use chlorine- and bromine-based chemistries. This success was largely facilitated by the company’s full material disclosure system, which allows its engineers to know the complete chemical content of their products. DSM Engineering Plastics, a leading plastic material manufacturer, is among the first chemical companies to offer a complete portfolio of engineering plastics that are free of these substances. The company produced a brand new generic polyamide for connectors and sockets and a new thermoplastic copolyester that can be used as a replacement for PVC-based wires and cables. Nan Ya, a major laminate manufacturer, and Indium, a high-end manufacturer of solder paste and flux, both overcame major technical challenges to produce bromine- and chlorine-free components for printed circuit boards that met the same reliability standards of their halogenated counterparts. And finally, Silicon Storage Technology, Inc. a semiconductor manufacturer, was the first in the industry to supply Apple and others with bromine-free chips."

No green assessment system is without controversy. For example, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) recently took exception to CPA's plastics scorecard. There is no indication that the ACC's position calls into question the chlorine/bromine reductions described above.

Conscientious buyers can find more information about PVC/BFR-free e-devices in out "Greenest E-Gear" listings. Click here and look for the index in the upper right.

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