The Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center released data Wednesday from a cell phone toxicity study that ranked the Motorola Citrus as the least toxic phone on the market — and the iPhone 2G as the most toxic.
The Motorola Citrus' least toxic ranking was followed by the iPhone 4S and the LG Remarq. The new iPhone 5 ranked 5th, better than its primary competitor, Samsung's Galaxy S III, which ranked 9th.
But every one of the 36 phones sampled contained at least one of following hazardous chemicals: lead, bromine, chlorine, mercury and cadmium, the study found.
"These hazardous substances can pollute throughout a product's life cycle, including when the minerals are extracted; when they are processed; during phonemanufacturing; and at the end of the phone's useful life," the Ecology Center said in a press release.
Additionally, the mining of some tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold used in mobile phones has been linked to conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the study author found.
"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."
A 2004 study found that three-quarters of all cell phones leach lead at levels that would qualify them as hazardous waste.
"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."
Highlights of The Findings:
• 100 percent of cell phones tested contain chemical hazards.
• Samsung phones had the best average rating of all phones 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 to shift to safer materials and chemistries.