Pile of different smartphones on the ground, cracked or broken.

Laptops and smartphones are chemical reactors

Smartphones and laptops are chemical warehouses. We need better management of dangerous chemicals that emit all kinds of toxins.

Scientist Josh Lebowski stated that “one of the best places environmental chemists look for previously unknown chemical contaminants is not in ‘environment’ or ‘nature’ but in the remains of previously manufactured goods, especially discarded electronics.”

Josh explained to me on our podcast, “It can be somewhat surprising to learn that we have so little understanding of the galaxy of chemicals that make up all of our everyday products that surround us in our homes.” There are millions of different chemicals available for industrial use, but only on the order of thousands have their toxicity ever been tested. Environmental toxicologists, while searching for alarming new toxins, found a previously unknown chemical toxin, not in some undiscovered cave, but in dust from electronic recycling facilities.

Related article: A massive and toxic waste of digital design

Toxicity abounds in the chemical galaxy

“There are so many chemicals available for industrial use that they completely exceed all testing capacity on Earth to keep up with the number of new chemicals. There is literally no way of knowing just how pervasive the chemical galaxy we find ourselves increasingly living in.”

It’s hard to believe that our smartphones and laptops are chemical warehouses and that when they become electronic waste (as most will do), they can function as chemical plants, produce new forms of dangerous chemicals and, like decaying little nuclear reactors, emit all kinds of toxins;

“Nuclear waste has an amazing perception to go with it, in part because of the amazing accidents that have taken place,” Josh says. “This somehow explains why we see nuclear waste as somewhat special. But you are absolutely right. It is important for us to understand that many, many ordinary everyday things that are part of a lot of our lives (TVs, phones, etc.) are made of Permanent materials from a geological point of view.

According to Josh, they will persist long after anything recognizable as contemporary society, and perhaps even humans as a race, he adds.

#Laptops #smartphones #chemical #reactors

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