For the first time ever, iFixit has teamed up with HealthyStuff to research toxic chemicals in 36 different cell phones, including the new iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III. The study found that most modern phones contain few harmful chemicals, with Apple’s iPhone 5 and 4S among the least toxic handsets in the study.
The Motorola Citrus ranked the least toxic phone, followed by the iPhone 4S and the LG Remarq. Apple’s iPhone 5 came in 5th, much better than Samsung’s Galaxy S III, which ranked 9th. The most toxic phone that was tested was the iPhone 2G.
An X-ray fluorescence spectrometric analysis of 36 devices was performed, ranking each phone on a scale of 0 to 5, with the lowest being the best. Products were ranked by chemical, component, and an overall assessment of each phone.
Every phone included in the study contained at least one of the following hazardous chemicals: lead, bromine, chlorine, mercury, and cadmium. These chemicals can pollute throughout the phone’s life cycle, including when minerals are extracted and processed, during the phone’s manufacturing, and at the end of the phone’s useful life. Emissions during disposal and recycling of phones is one of the biggest issues.
Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center and founder of HealthyStuff.org, said, “Even the best phones from our study are still loaded with chemical hazards. 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.”
So while phones are getting more environmentally friendly, especially Apple’s, whose iPhone 2 ranked among the worst phones for the environment but the more recent iPhone 4S and 5 are much better, there is still a ways to go.