February 24, 2006

Calif. Bill Would Bar Toxins in Cell Phones, iPods

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California would require manufacturers to phase out the use of hazardous materials in making cell phones, iPods and other electronic devices under a bill introduced by a state lawmaker.

The bill unveiled on Thursday by Assembly Member Lori Saldana, a Democrat from San Diego, would apply to any electronic or battery-operated device. The bill, which was introduced on Wednesday, would require manufacturers to stop using the substances in devices sold in California by 2008.

"We know that the manufacturers of these products are able to produce them without including harmful toxic materials," Saldana said in a written statement. "California deserves to be included among the markets that receive this cleaner stream of consumer electronics."

California already requires manufacturers of video displays in devices to phase out the use of toxic materials.

Environmental groups with clout in the state's Democrat-led legislature support the bill.

They are concerned about pollution from electronic devices discarded in landfills and want California to follow the example of the European Union, which has called for phasing out the use of toxic materials in making consumer electronics.

"Cell phones, iPods, computers and many other modern electronic devices have a useful life of maybe a year or two before they become obsolete," said Mark Murray, executive director of the group Californians Against Waste. "It doesn't make sense to use hazardous materials in these disposable devices."

About 70 percent of toxic heavy metals found in landfills come from electronic products, which may contain lead, cadmium, chromium and mercury, according to Californians Against Waste.

"This brew of toxic substances can damage nervous, kidney and reproductive systems, while some of the metals contain carcinogens," according a statement released by the group.

Apple Computer Inc. last year started a program at its retail stores to encourage consumers to recycle their iPod music- and video-playing devices in exchange for a discount on new devices.