The Issue

Electronic equipment used in health care often contains hazardous substances that can harm human health – from chlorinated plastics in cable wiring, to lead in cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors, to brominated flame retardants in computers and mercury in LCD displays.

Improper disposal of electronic equipment poses a significant threat to public health and the global environment. When electronic products are incinerated or dumped in a landfill, they can release heavy metals and other hazardous substances that contaminate groundwater and pollute the air.

Some hazardous e-waste is being exported to developing countries that are less equipped to handle the hazardous materials — even though, in many cases this export violates international law, as well as domestic laws in the importing countries. See Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia (pdf).

As a large volume buyer, the health care sector has the power to shift the electronics market toward greener practices through its purchasing choices.

Health Care Without Harm is collaborating with health care systems to promote healthier purchasing and disposal practices as a means to improve public health and protect the global environment.