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Environmental Consequences of Computers

While computers are becoming smaller and more powerful, their environmental impacts are increasing. The materials- and energy-intense production process, greater adoption of PCs worldwide, plus the rapid rate at which they are discarded for newer machines, add up to growing mountains of garbage and increasingly serious contributions to resource depletion, environmental pollution and climate change. The average 53-pound desktop computer with monitor requires at least 10 times its weight in fossil fuels and chemicals to manufacture, much more materials intensive than an automobile or refrigerator, which only require one to two times their weight in fossil fuels.

The study examines a variety of environmental impacts associated with computer production processes. The main impacts are believed to be:

  • Significant energy use in the production and operation of computers.
  • Possible long-term health effects on workers, families and neighboring communities due to chemical exposure and emissions.
  • Possible health impacts due to exposure to hazardous materials contained in computer products, in particular brominated flame retardants and lead.

Science Blog March 8, 2004

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