Old computers, other computer waste and electronics contain hazardous substances.
Which computer components contain toxic substances?
Computer components contain toxic substances and that is why old computers and computer waste should be handled with care. Recycling of old computers needs to be done with great care and within the Netherlands. IT-recycling is committed to this.
In short, a hassle-free business partner. In practical terms this means your computer waste will be recycled responsibly and environmentally-friendly, according to the legal requirements.
Always be careful with computer waste and have it disposed of responsibly.
Highlighted below are some of the most prominent toxic substances found in computer components. This list is not exhaustive.
Would you like to know more about toxic substances in computer components and computer waste? Please visit the BAN website – an organisation which highlights the dangers of the export of old computers and computer waste.
These are plasticisers for PVC and are used in various places in computers. Over time these substances from the PVC end up in the environment. The more children are exposed to certain phthalates, the higher the chances of getting asthma, hay fever and eczema;
Phthalates are possibly carcinogenic (found in animal testing).
Brominated flame retardants
Which computer parts contain toxic substances They are often highly persistent in the environment and/or accumulate in animals and people. Through dumps in the production process they end up in the water and in sludge. Fish are exposed to the toxic substances and are accumulated in their fatty tissue. Via fish we consume them. But also directly because small amounts leak out of the products in
which they have been incorporated.
Disruption in the development of the brain
According to researchers brominated flame retardants can mimic the functioning of the thyroid. This is the hormone that determines the development of the brain in foetuses. Brominated flame retardants can disrupt the motor development or cause memory- and learning disabilities. They can also reinforce the effect of carcinogenic chemical substances.
These are chemical fragrance substances that are strongly believed to mimic or disrupt the sex hormones. We ingest them via our skin which absorbs them easily through the use of for example perfume or aftershave.
Examples of musks are: galaxolide (HHCB), tonalide (AHTN), musk ambrette (MA), musk ketone (MK), musk tibetene (MT), musk xylene (MX), Traseolide (ATII), Celestolide (ADBI), Phantolide (AHMI) and Cashmeran (DPMI).
The long-term effects of musk connections on people are still largely unknown.
Because it concerns exactly the same hormonal system in synthetic musks as in phthalates, the following effects are to be expected: deformities to reproductive organs, reduced sperm quality and the like.
o research in 1999, frog reproduction was disrupted by degradation products of musk xylene and musk ketone. Long term studies showed that, in high concentrations, xylene musk caused cancer in mice. Musk compounds dissolve well in fat. Once in the environment, they accumulate in the fatty tissue of fish and other aquatic organisms. It appears that musks inhibit the detoxification system of mussels (the immune system, as it were). As a result, these organisms are more susceptible to damage by toxins. It is possible that immune systems in humans and other organisms might also be damaged.
Sex change in fish
Alkylphenols accumulate in the environment. They are especially notorious for their endocrine-disrupting effects. This has been particularly demonstrated in fish, and may lead to sex changes such as feminisation. Researchers carrying out tests on male fish found cells that produced eggs. Alkylphenols can cross the placenta; they have been found in the umbilical cords of babies, and alkylphenols appear in breast milk.
The damaging effects of alkylphenols have been well known a long time. That is why the OSPAR countries – fifteen European countries and the EU – decided back in 1992 to ban their use in detergents for consumer use from 1995, and in industrial cleaning products from 2000. However, it is still not clear to what extent this decision has actually been put into effect.
This is a group of organic compounds containing tin. TBT and TPT, for example, are organotin compounds. Even in low concentrations, TBT already causes adverse effects in humans and animals. According to research, the endocrine systems of shellfish such as the whelk are severely disrupted. Organotin compounds in rats increased the risk of miscarriage. In England, researchers found that female purple snails developed a penis.
Metals in computers
In addition, computers contain the following metals, among others:
Long-term exposure to copper can cause irritation to the nose, mouth and eyes and provokes headaches, abdominal pain, dizziness, vomiting and diarrhoea. Intentionally high intakes of copper can cause damage to the liver and kidneys, and can even result in death. It is not yet clear whether copper is carcinogenic.
Aluminium ions can enter the body in various ways, such as through breathing, eating or drinking. Long-term exposure to high concentrations of aluminium ions ma
y cause disorders of the nervous system to develop, such as various forms of dementia, temporary and permanent memory loss, shakiness, or lethargy.
Phosphorus (Si & P)
Elevated phosphorus concentrations in surface water stimulate the growth of phosphate-dependent organisms such as algae and duckweed. These organisms use large amounts of oxygen and prevent sunlight reaching the water below. This means that other organisms cannot survive in the water, a process known as eutrophication.
Lead and lead compounds are known for their toxicity and environmental hazard. Lead(II) salts and organic lead compounds are particularly significant in terms of ecotoxicology. Lead salts fall under water hazard class 2 (WKG = Wassergefährdungsklasse), and are therefore dangerous. The same applies to lead compounds such as lead acetate, lead oxide, lead nitrate and lead carbonate.
Although lead limits chlorophyll synthesis in plants, they can tolerate a relatively high lead content in the soil of up to 500 ppm. At higher concentrations, plant growth is affected. Lead can end up in the food chain in this way, which is why it is prohibited in pesticides, among other products.
The absorption of tin compounds can cause both acute and long-term effects.
Acute effects are:
- Eye and skin irritations
- Stomach ache
- Nausea and dizziness
- Heavy sweating
- Urination problems
- Long-term effects are:
- Liver damage
- Damage to the immune system
- Chromosomal damage
- Deficiency of red blood cells
- Brain damage (causing anger, sleep disorders, forgetfulness and headaches)
Iron and Steel (Fe)
Iron can cause various diseases when it ends up in tissue and remains there.
Excessive chronic exposure of organs to silver compounds, have caused the following effects in laboratory animals:
- Damage to kidneys, eyes, lungs, liver and brains
Excessive chronic exposure to silver or silver compounds can cause the following effects in humans:
- Heart rhythm disorders
- Permanent brain damage and damage to the nervous system
- Potentiation of the effects of neurotoxins, that are already present in the body, resulting in severe nerve damage
Exposure Effects: Inhalation:
May cause irritation on prolonged exposure or exposure to large quantities. Ingestion: No effects. Skin: May cause irritation and allergic reaction. Eyes: Can be irritating.
Causes eye and skin irritation. This material irritates mucous membranes and the upper respiratory tract.
When rats are given high dosages, wounds develop in their lungs.
Organomercury such as methyl mercury is much more harmful than metallic mercury. Long-term exposure to low concentrations of organomercury (0.05 mg/day or more) can cause the following effects in adults:
- Blurred vision
In the 1950s, Japan suffered the effects of mercury poisoning from eating fish. This was known as Minamata disease. In the years 1972 and 1973, the disease occurred in Iraq, where people were hospitalised after consuming corn contaminated with organomercury.
If a pregnant women is exposed to levels of organomercury above 0.05 mg per day, the foetus is put at risk. As a result, the child may be mentally retarded and have learn
ing difficulties. Organomercury can alter genetic material. A number of allergic reactions to mercury are known, such as: fatigue, irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract and headaches.
Computer components contain toxic substances, by recycling these materials, you are consciously protecting the environment and ensuring that the Netherlands is clean in the future.