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Toxic Elements in Technology

Laura Mercure


Americans are the biggest producers of e-waste. Every year, 41 million computers (and 100 million cell phones) are discarded in landfills across the country. But what exactly are those hazardous materials?


Some of the toxic elements found in computers and cell phones include lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and nickel. Cadmium is used in rechargeable batteries. Mercury is used in LCD displays as well as switches and batteries. Lead is used in computer monitors. Chromium is used in metal housings. Nickel is used in some cell phones circuit boards and soldering. (SOURCE https://chemicalsinourlife.echa.europa.eu/know-your-electronics#:~:text=Cadmium%20%E2%80%93%20used%20in%20rechargeable%20computer,in%20computer%20and%20TV%20screens.)


According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), these elements can cause a slew of health issues from damage to the liver, lungs, and kidneys, to chest pain, excessive tiredness, and even cancers. Computers typically have, for example, eight pounds of lead in them. That means that every year 328 million pounds of lead are released into the environment through discarded computers.




Prolonging the life of electronics is a crucial way to help the environment and minimize these toxic elements. Before replacing your electronics, ask yourself the following:


  • Why am I replacing this technology?

  • Do I really need to replace this?

  • What is the impact of throwing this device away?

  • Can someone else still use this?


We hope the answers to these questions lead you to donate your outdated technology. After wiping your data, we provide it to a student in a developing nation who will give your computer a second life and learn crucial skills in the process. Please do your part to help close the digital divide and help the environment by donating your devices to the Hendricks Foundation.


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