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The main toxic chemicals found in electronic waste

As we rely more and more on modern technology, the mountain of e-waste gets bigger and bigger. The e-waste pile represents a serious danger to the environment and only through responsible recycling and proper differentiation of waste, we will be able to mitigate the negative impact. The leakage of hazardous substances leads to disastrous contamination of soil, air, and water. Find out what are the main toxic chemicals found in electronic waste. If you are the CEO of a company, you need to consider the proper implementation of EMS systems.

• Mercury is one of the most dangerous chemicals found in electronic devices. It is used for flat panel displays and various lighting devices. Older computers have batteries that contain mercury. Also, older mainframe switches, relays and servers contain this substance. Mercury leakage is extremely dangerous. Incineration may cause vapors to travel a long distance. In contact with water, it will transform into methylmercury, a highly toxic substance. Inhalation of mercury can damage the central nervous system and the kidneys.

• Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are chemicals used to make various products less flammable. They are commonly found in plastics, textiles, and electrical/electronic equipment. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, tetrabromobisphenol A, and other phenols are commonly found in electronics, especially circuit boards. Most of the BFRs are persistent in the environment and some of them are highly bioaccumulative. Data has shown that long-term exposure to certain BFRs can cause problems with brain and skeletal development (especially in fetuses). Also, BFRs can affect certain hormone systems, especially thyroid hormones (which affect growth and development). Animal experiments have concluded that BFRs can also affect the liver and delay puberty.

• Beryllium is widely used in electronics, being a very good electrical conductor. Also, copper-beryllium alloys are widespread and contain about 2% beryllium. Generally, those affected by beryllium are workers involved in refining and processing activities. Inhaled fumes and dust of beryllium and beryllium oxide cause CBD (chronic beryllium disease). The same dusts and fumes can also be found during the recycling process, when equipment is shredded. Beryllium is chronically and acutely toxic to humans, primarily affecting the lungs. Acute beryllium disease (ABD) is caused by breathing a high concentration of beryllium. The main symptoms are shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, very fast heart rate, and in some cases, death. Nearly a third of people with ABD will eventually develop the chronic form of exposure, known as berylliosis. Still, the symptoms of CBD are serious, including emphysema and fibrosis of the lungs, which can be fatal.

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