Most smartphones and other electrical or electronic products contain small amounts of lead, which doesn’t sound like a big problem on its own. But when there are many billions of such products, either in daily use or gone astray, the total sums up to very large amounts of lead – which is a toxic heavy metal.
Therefore, the environmental authorities in the EU/EEA, the USA and several other countries have agreed to limit the use of lead in electrical and electronic equipment. Products must contain no more than 0.1 per cent by weight of lead in order to be approved for CE marking, according to current regulations – but there are exceptions, especially when there are no alternative materials to be found.
A long step in the non-toxic direction
“In practice, it is not possible to limit or stop the use of lead in such products if you don’t have other materials that can deliver the same benefits without being significantly more expensive. Therefore, we at the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oslo (UiO) have tried to develop new materials that can replace the lead-containing materials. Now, we have taken a long step in a right and non-toxic direction,” says researcher Henrik Hovde Soensteby to Titan.uio.no.