This email is the eighth in a series of twelve for child care providers in New York State that Clean and Healthy New York trained on EcoHealthy Child Care® and toxic chemical reduction and elimination strategies. We hope you find them helpful and they inspire you to take further steps to reduce the hidden toxic chemicals in your setting. Please share with your children's families!
Healthy Electronics for Safer Child Care:
What to avoid, what to use, and how to recycle it
Electronics use many hazardous materials and are not designed to be easily recycled. They are required to be flame resistant, leading manufacturers to treat their products with chemicals to meet this requirement. Electronics often also contain toxic metals like lead and mercury inside. These chemicals can poison our air and water, and make us sick. Products quickly become outdated and are replaced with newer models. Improper recycling and disposal of old products can expose people, water, and wildlife to lead, mercury, or toxic flame retardants.
What to Avoid
Brominated and Chlorinated Flame Retardants: Chemical flame retardants are present in virtually all our homes and bodies. They have been detected in house dust, blood, and breast milk. Chemical flame retardants have been shown to cause harm to the thyroid system and lifelong damage to the developing brain. According to the EPA, some brominated and chlorinated flame retardants probably cause cancer. Flame retardants in recycled plastic from old computers and TVs can contaminate new products.
E-waste: Electronics are now the fastest growing type of trash. It is important to ensure electronics are recycled correctly; irresponsible recyclers sometimes use children in developing countries or prison laborers to dismantle electronics, providing little or no safety protections from toxic chemicals. Use the information on the reverse page to make sure you choose a safe, registered recycler and/or collection site that is certified to properly recycle e-waste. PVC: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coats the wires in many electronics. When burned to collect the valuable copper inside, the PVC releases dioxins. Dioxins cause cancer and do not easily break down.
Heavy Metals: Lead, mercury, and other heavy metals are used in TV components, flat-panel displays, and computer circuit boards. These toxic metals are especially dangerous to people melting down parts from old equipment in unsafe working conditions.
What you can do
Choose companies that make safer products. Look for EPEAT Silver (or higher) certified products. Find a company that minimizes chemical use, promotes repair, and provides a take-back program. Before you buy, call to ask how they meet flammability standards.
Dust regularly and wash your hands to avoid buildup of flame retardants and other chemicals.
Use free take-back programs that ensure waste is handled safely and responsibly.
Remember - buying new may not be best! Can you extend the life of your existing products with a repair, or software or hardware upgrade? Will a used or refurbished product meet your needs? When buying new, consider how easy it will be to repair or upgrade. Ask questions about that when making your purchase.
New York State Requirements
New York requires electronics makers to take back their products free at retail stores, drop off sites, or by mail. This has encouraged product makers to design less toxic products, helped to reduce pollution, and increased awareness of this health and safety issue. As of 2015, it is illegal to dispose of most electronics in landfills.
Collection Sites: DEC maintains a list of hundreds of collection sites in NY, like retail stores, municipalities, and resale shops. Call ahead to ensure they take your equipment. The law excludes some things, like phones. Some cell phone providers take old phones as trades.
Recycling Facilities: New York has more than 50 registered electronic waste recycling facilities that accept, store, and recycle electronic waste. More information at: www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/65583.html
EPEAT Program: www.epeat.net
Find out where and how to recycle almost anything: www.earth911.com
NYS DEC Guidance for Consumers: www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/66872.html
Learn more about the health and environmental impacts from global trade in e-waste: www.ban.org
“Do We Need Flame Retardants in Electronics?” Scientific American, Jan. 28, 2014 www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-we-need-flame-retardants-in-electronics/
Mt. Sinai School of Medicine operates the Children's Environmental Health Center of Excellence, conducting research into environmental causes of childhood disease. They also provide free consultation for parents who have questions about pediatric environmental exposures. To contact the Mount Sinai Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU), please call 1-866-265-6201 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Look for our next set of tips coming soon.
NYSP2I is dedicated to helping NYS residents and businesses find implementable and cost-effective sustainability solutions.
Funding provided by the Environmental Protection Fund as administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NYS Pollution Prevention Institute or Department of Environmental Conservation.