We have an ongoing debate in our house about which mobile phone is best. One of us is a Samsung believer and the other is an iPhone devotee. To help us find some closure the Ecology Center and ifixit.com teamed up to research toxic chemicals in 36 different cell phones, including the iPhone 5 and Samsung’s Galaxy S III. The results were released at HealthyStuff.org.
The study found that the iPhone 5 prevailed-coming in as the 5th safest phone, versus the Samsung Galaxy S III, which ranked 9th.
The Motorola Citrus ranked the least toxic phone followed by the iPhone 4 S and the LG Remarq. The most toxic phone tested was the iPhone 2G.
“Even the best phones from our study are still loaded with chemical hazards,” said Jeff Gearhart, research director at the Ecology Center and founder of HealthyStuff.org. “These chemicals, which are linked to birth defects, impaired learning and other serious health problems, have been found in soils at levels 10 to 100 times higher than background levels at e-waste recycling sites in China. We need better federal regulation of these chemicals, and we need to create incentives for the design of greener consumer electronics.”
Most of the 36 cell phones analyzed were models released in the last 5 years. The phones tested represent 10 mobile phone manufacturers, including: Apple, Hewlett-Packard Development Company, HTC Corporation, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd, LG Electronics, Motorola, Nokia Corporation, Palm, Research in Motion and Samsung Electronics. The sample represents the largest set ever released for any electronic product. In total, 1,105 samples were analyzed for 35 different chemicals and elements. The phones were completely disassembled and interior and exterior components were tested using X-ray Fluorescence (XRF).
“Consumer demand for more sustainable mobile phones is driving companies to produce better products,” said Gearhart. “We also need better federal and international policy to manage both chemicals and e-waste, as well as to promote sustainable design.”
According to HealthyStuff.org these were the highlights from the study:
- 100% of cell phones tested contain chemical hazards.
- Samsung phones had the highest average rating of all phone tested.
- Apple, now among industry leaders, showed the greatest improvement.The iPhone 2G, introduced in 2007 rated as the poorest phone tested. The two most recent Apple phones, the 4s and 5, are among the best phones tested.
- Newer phones are better than older phones. Overall product ratings have improved significantly (33%) since 2007.This reflects an increased focus on reducing chemical hazards by the industry.
- Transition to safer alternatives is underway. Leading manufacturers, including Apple, Sony, Samsung and others have started the shift to safer materials and chemistries.