Game Consoles 'A Toxic Menace'

Dennis Faas's picture

Environmental campaigners have said the three leading video games consoles all contain dangerous chemicals. According to Greenpeace, the Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Xbox 360 each contain substances which could affect human memory and reproductive development.

The tests found the presence of phthalates, beryllium and bromine, all of which have been linked to health concerns. The phthalates are used in games consoles to soften cable coatings and wiring. Because of safety worries, the substance is banned in toys in Europe, with California planning a similar ban next year. However, games consoles are not classed as toys under the European laws.

Beryllium is used as a flame retardant. Though legal to use in manufacturing, there are worries that the dust it produces when goods are recycled can increase the chances of developing cancer.

Greenpeace also warned that too many old consoles wind up in unsafe recycling dumps, particularly in developing countries.

All three manufacturers defended their products. Nintendo said everything it made met national safety standards. Microsoft said its products go beyond minimum environmental requirements and added that it will eliminate some of the chemicals by 2010. Sony said it had a worldwide system to control the chemicals used in its products, and that it was reducing the chemicals and using other substances wherever possible. (Source:

Greenpeace disagreed, with Nintendo coming under particularly harsh criticism. Zeina Al-Hajj, who heads the group's campaigning on toxic chemicals, said the company ranked worst of all technology companies, charging simply, "Nintendo doesn't have any environmental policies".

The group also complained that Sony is withdrawing some of the chemicals from mobile phones but not doing the same in games consoles. Sony countered that it will do so as soon as it finds a suitable alternative. (Source:

For the average games user, the threat is minimal. As with some plastic toys, it's possible there are dangers if a young child were to chew on cable covers in a games console. But any child young enough to do that shouldn't be left alone with any electronic equipment in the first place.

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