Saturday, July 31

Dust busted 

There’s a new health hazard doing the rounds, and I might be falling victim to it even as I key this in. No, we’re not talking about any form of bacteria, amoeba, or viruses. In fact, it’s something you never envisioned would cause you harm, and it’s not even plenteous enough to scrutinize or gauge. It’s all those teeny-weeny motes of dust that sit pretty on your computer, the telly, or the music system. Recent research conducted on this breed of dust that collects on electronic devices has it that the chemical residue found in it could pose a perilous threat to your health.

In a report published by Clean Production Action and the Computer TakeBack Campaign, two groups involved in environmental and health issues studies as related to computers, researchers assert that possibly, dangerous elements of brominated fire retardants are showing up in dust samples swiped from computers. This research implies that the most widely found instance of these substances, commonly used fire prevention compounds known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, have been found to cause health problems in lab animals. The report's contention that PBDEs, which have been shown to present reproductive and neurological risks to animals used in lab tests, remain persistent in the environment and contaminate food supplies, animals and humans, seems to be even more crucial. The study of PBDEs was apparently based on 16 samples of dust collected by the Computer TakeBack Campaign and Clean Production Action from computer monitors in public locations across eight states, including university computer labs, legislative offices and a children's museum.

Even though Dell, HP and IBM – three of the world’s largest PC manufacturers, offer PC recycling programs, the number of PCs they recycle is still at a low, claim researchers. Dell, it appears, has proscribed the use of PBDEs in all its products since 2002, and has worked closely with groups such as the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, a champion of the report, to help endorse the recycling process. Yet, analysts reckon that the United States trails behind Europe in exercising endeavors to reduce human exposure to these toxic substances - the European Union has already issued a directive that all PBDEs used in consumer electronics have to be eliminated by 2006.

For someone that’s already learned of a freakish, novelty ailment named CRI (Computer Related Injury) I must confess I wasn’t exactly unnerved by this one. But for now, I’m hoping someone unveils special dust busters to save us from this modern malady.

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