Are there toxins in your electronics?


Tuesday, 13 March, 2018


Are there toxins in your electronics?

There is a flood of new electronic and electrical devices reintroducing toxins very similar to those in tobacco smoke, diesel fumes, asbestos and other killers, according to market research firm IDTechEx.

With some electronics devices set to sell in up to billions yearly, IDTechEx researchers note that there has been no tracking of the big picture of imminent toxic threat from the balance of virulence, morphology and likely prevalence of these toxins. Something only moderately toxic is a threat if it is widely deployed in millions yearly and has uncontrolled disposal, while small particles are more reactive and some can magnify the toxicity of others, according to the researchers.

The IDTechEx report ‘Toxic Materials and Alternatives in Electronics/Electrics 2018–2028’ includes a timeline of planned introduction of ‘toxins of concern’ into electronics and electrics from 2018–2028 and analyses those deployed today as well as those being researched in new devices. The report reveals alternative materials that are receiving insufficient attention and recommends dates for banning others, taking into account the risks and needs of all in the value chain — manufacture, use, abuse and disposal.

For example, the report proposes when two carcinogenic device chemistries should be banned given that alternatives are commercially successful. These materials are variously associated with birth defects, lethal HCN when burnt or ingested or cumulative multiple pathologies in humans.

“Toxic cadmium has been reintroduced into daily life as quantum dots in displays and huge sales of cadmium telluride photovoltaics,” said IDTechEx CEO Raghu Das. “Cadmium in displays will be banned in Europe from 2019 but not worldwide, yet the alternative is lead-based quantum dots.

“Toxic lead is also reappearing this year in the first commercialisation of perovskite windows generating electricity and new piezoelectrics, probably safely. Some researchers are preparing devices with cadmium, lead, arsenic and a host of organic and inorganic toxins, but commendably others race to replace lead in the new perovskite photovoltaics and other toxic elements in skutterudite thermoelectrics, for example.”

The report is said to contain dense summaries and infograms revealing the breadth of adoption and planned adoption of physically and chemically toxic materials, identifying large sales and serious toxicity issues now and in future. The good news is that it also reveals “many little known but safer alternatives”, according to Das, “recommending greater priority for these”.

“For example, you will not need toxic ruthenium in pseudocapacitors or DSSC photovoltaics anymore,” he said. “Goodbye beryllium and mercury. We describe gaps in the market where no affordable alternative is in sight. These are a big opportunity for industrialists.”

The report can be found at http://www.idtechex.com/toxin.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/martialred

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