Don't be fooled by your device's shiny aluminum cases and sleek plastic backings. Modern consumer electronics can harbor all sorts of chemicals that we don't want in the water that we drink, the air that we breathe, or in the bodies we inhabit.
Chemicals such as flame retardants are good when it comes to preventing our smartphones from being consumed by fire after some unfortunate electrical mishap, but they can do any number of extremely ghastly things when taking into the body, having being linked to cancer, neurological deficits, developmental problems and impaired fertility.
Or take the heavy metals mercury and arsenic, both of which have been used enthusiastically in the manufacture of certain LCD displays. These are relatively -- and I use that word broadly -- safe when locked up inside a device, but when that once-loved handset is dumped into the trash, and later crushed or incinerated at a landfill site, these noxious elements are free to cause all sorts of mayhem for human and animal life.
The 36 handsets chosen were subjected to a barrage of tests to determine their chemical composition. The results of these tests were then rated and ranked on a 0--5 scale, with the lowest score being best.
When broken down by rank, 6 out of the 36 phones fall into the "low concern" category, a group that includes the iPhone 5, the iPhone 4S, the Motorola Citrus, and the Samsung Captivate.
A further twenty-four of the phones are of "medium concern," including the iPhone 4, the Samsung Eternity, the Motorola Droid X, and the BlackBerry Curve 8530.
However, the remaining six phones are classified as "high concern," a group that includes the Nokia N95 and the second-generation iPhone.
After a bit more number crunching, the scores were reordered by the release data of the handset in question -- and this showed something quite interesting -- that newer smartphones are being made with fewer hazardous chemicals.
According to the research, every phone that was ranked of "high concern" was released before 2010.
"There is a trend of less toxics overtime, it looks like -- especially for Apple," writes iFixit chief executive Kyle Weins. "That's good, but it’s not good enough. We can't just pat ourselves on our backs and rest on our laurels. Many toxics remain".
"There is room for improvement in every phone, by every manufacturer. Health is at stake -- the health of Americans, the health of children burning electronics in Ghana, and the health of the people who inherit our landfills".
More information, including a full list of rankings, is available at HealthyStuff.org.
Image source: iFixit/HealthyStuff.org.