HP investigates Greenpeace toxic claims

Never mind about exploding batteries, it's the toxic chemicals used to make notebooks that are the real danger, warns the environmental group

HP and Apple have come top in an investigation into the levels of toxic chemicals used in the production of market-leading laptops.

The report released on Monday, and conducted by an independent Danish laboratory, showed that HP's Pavilion dv4000 Series machine contained high levels of a number of chemicals in its components including Brominated Fire Retardants (PBDEs), which HP claims to have removed from its products years ago.

"Either HP is lying or HP needs to ask its suppliers some tough questions," Greenpeace claimed in a statement.

Responding to the Greenpeace accusations, HP told ZDNet UK in an emailed statement that in 1998, the company introduced its General Specifications for the Environment, which restricted the use of some hazardous substances in HP products, including DecaBDE. "HP is currently working with its suppliers to investigate the claim that DecaBDE was found in the notebook purchased and tested by Greenpeace this past March," the company said.

Apple's new MacBook range was also criticised by the environmental researchers for the high amounts of a toxic flame retardant, tetrabromobisphenol. Greenpeace acknowledged that Apple has stated it is looking for alternatives to the substance but said that right now it is using far higher amounts of the chemical than competitors.

"During the sampling process it was remarkable to note that, whether PC or Mac, once you pass the sleek and cool design of these computers, hazardous substances are a component common to all," said Dr Kevin Brigden, from the Greenpeace Science Unit.

HP also pointed out that in March this year, Greenpeace acknowledged the progress the tech company has made recently to improve its environmental credentials in a statement entitled "HP rises to the toxic challenge". HP also maintains that all of its laptops in the EU are currently in compliance with regulations such as the Restriction of Hazardous Substance (RoHS) directive introduced in July 2006.

Meanwhile, Chinese computer giant Lenovo, which came bottom in a another Greenpeace toxic report, announced this week that its ThinkPad notebooks, ThinkCentre Desktops and ThinkVision monitors have received high ratings from EPEAT, a procurement tool funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Criteria met included manufacturing PCs with reduced levels of cadmium, lead and mercury, the company claimed.