22 July 2008

Game Consoles Hazardous?

I read a month ago that environmental organization Greenpeace found that all three home video game consoles - Sony's PS3, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii - tested positive for a variety of hazardous chemicals, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), beryllium, bromine, and phthalates. Their findings are contained in 'Playing Dirty' report which states that, "whether game consoles are classified as toys or not, they can still contain hazardous chemicals and materials that could harm humans. The technology is available for the manufacturers to design out toxics and produce greener game consoles now."

The report found that all three systems contained significant levels of bromine. Long-term exposure of which can lead to impaired learning and memory functions. They can also interfere with thyroid and oestrogen hormone systems and exposure in the womb has been linked to behavioral problems. One of the phthalates found in the 360 and PS3, a chemical called DEHP, is known to interfere with sexual development in mammals, especially males.

Does this mean we gamers need to wear protective anti-toxic clothing everytime we play Halo3 or Oblivion? I don't think so. Not yet anyway because the report also stated that " ... each manufacturer had avoided or reduced uses of individual hazardous substances in certain materials within their consoles. For example, the Nintendo Wii managed quite well without using beryllium in its electrical contacts, and use of PVC and phthalates was limited. The PlayStation 3, meanwhile, included 'bromine-free' circuit boards and the Xbox 360 used fewer brominated materials in its housing materials."

The report further claimed that there is already technology available for manufacturers to design out harmful toxics and produce cleaner game consoles now. This means that playing clean is possible if manufacturers will replace their supposedly toxic components with cleaner and greener materials.

And a warning is issued to those who plan to dump their old or broken consoles in trash, although I doubt anyone in the Philippines will do this. The report warned that game consoles contribute towards the fastest growing type of waste – 'ewaste'. Finding reveal that Once these consoles have reached the end of their useful life, they are often dumped and end up in unsafe and dirty recycling yards in developing countries, where toxic contents harm both the environment and the health of workers.