Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mike Elgan: Why gadget lights are dangerous - Computerworld


LED lights are toxic

The little lights that are built into our phones, computers and other gear are made with a semiconductor technology called the light-emitting diode (LED). These lights are advertised as "eco-friendly." But a recent study by University of California at Irvine's Department of Population Health & Disease Prevention found that LED lights can contain hazardous substances, including lead, arsenic, nickel and more than a dozen other deadly materials.

According to a release by the university, "lead, arsenic and many additional metals discovered in the bulbs or their related parts have been linked in hundreds of studies to different cancers, neurological damage, kidney disease, hypertension, skin rashes and other illnesses."

In general, say researchers, the brighter the light, the more poisons they're likely to contain. Colored lights contain more lead than white ones. Red lights were found to contain up to eight times the amount of lead allowed by California law and about 35 times the amount allowed by federal law. That's right: Red LED lights are so toxic they're illegal.

Researchers say LED lights are generally safe unless they break, in which case they advise that you construct your own hazmat suit to deal with the toxic cocktail that spills out.

One major ongoing risk is car accidents. When cars collide, the LED lights built into the dash, as well as gadgets and computers in the car, can shatter, causing a release of toxic substances that experts say should be treated like any other hazardous materials spill. If LED traffic lights are damaged, it's especially bad because those LEDs are so bright and numerous. Unfortunately, the risk is typically ignored, and emergency crews are routinely exposed to these hazardous materials without protection.

Mike Elgan: Why gadget lights are dangerous - Computerworld

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