December 6, 2005 3:37 PM PST

Greenpeace: HP stands for 'harmful products'

PALO ALTO, Calif.--Stepping up attempts to pressure electronics makers to stop using fire prevention compounds suspected of being hazardous, Greenpeace on Tuesday staged a protest outside the Hewlett-Packard headquarters here.

In front of HP's main driveway, about 20 protesters handed out leaflets and raised a small blimp with a slogan written on the side: "HP: Harmful Products."

The demonstration is part of Greenpeace's efforts to get electronics makers to cease using brominated flame retardants. Scientists suspect some of those materials of being carcinogens; some have been banned in Europe.

Iza Kruszewska, Greenpeace's toxics campaigner, said that Dell and Apple Computer also use brominated flame retardants in their products and the group may go after them in the near future.

"We want to see innovation and safer materials," said Kruszewska, standing outside HP's headquarters. "We're seeing computer memories increasing, we're seeing improvements in computer features. We want to see the same kind of creative thinking in providing safety."

Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman, declined to discuss Greenpeace's accusations, but referred a reporter to the company's policy on brominated flame retardants. In essence, it says that Apple doesn't use any banned substances.

In a statement on its Web site, Apple says that it uses tetrabisphenol A, or TBBA, a type of brominated flame retardant, for some of its circuit boards. The company noted that it's common industry practice. "However, we are actively researching equally effective alternatives with better environmental features than TBBA," according to the company's policy.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs has in the past defended the company's record on recycling and other environmental concerns.

Calls to Dell Computer were not returned, but earlier this year the company said it would avoid using brominated flame retardants and that it had eliminated the use of halogenated flame retardants in desktop, notebook and server chassis plastic parts.

David Lear, HP's vice president of corporate, social and environmental responsibility, praised his company's environmental record. He noted that HP stopped using some types of brominated flame retardants a decade before they were banned by the European Union.

But Lear pointed out that the flame retardants in question were designed to prevent fires and save lives, and that Greenpeace is oversimplifying the issue.

"We haven't found a viable alternative," Lear said. "We think we need to help the industry find a long-term solution. Some companies have said they found one. But if they had, they would have used it across their product lines. They haven't."

Lear also emphasized that nobody has proven that the materials in question are dangerous.

"If you go to the health departments in the 171 countries we operate (in), this is an approved material used for safety in countless products."

Brominated flame retardants are used in many consumer products, including appliances and automobiles. These chemicals were designed to slow ignition and rate of a fire and the U.S. Environment Protection Agency has found that the most common brominated retardant, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, do not pose an unreasonable risk to the environment or human health.

But in the late 1990s, a study in Sweden reported that the levels of PBDEs found in breast milk had increased exponentially since the early 1970s. Levels have jumped in salmon and whales, studies show. According to research out last year, traces of brominated fire retardants turned up in chemical residue found in dust samples swiped from computers and other electronics devices.

The problem with PBDEs is that they are similar in chemical makeup to polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, which have been found to promote cancer in lab animals.

"There are some incomplete animal studies that some PBDEs, structurally and toxicologically, seem to be similar to PCB," said Arnold Schecter, an environmental sciences professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas. He co-authored a 2004 report that found that flame retardants were found in U.S. supermarket food in larger-than-expected amounts.

12 comments

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Somebody call the "Waah"mbulance
I appreciate efforts to make the technology sector more "green",
but frankly, groups like Greenpeace and Peta are making
enemies of the reasonable people they claim to be trying to
reach.

Tying up traffic, complaining about flame retardants, throwing
fake blood on people and making outrageous claims are not the
way to get Joe Consumer on your side - especially when the
protesters seem to be mostly comprised of wealthy
"trustafarians" with nothing better to do.

Cry me a river, Greenpeace. Go to work on some difficult and
arguably much more important problems, like poverty or
exurban creep?
Posted by Hep Cat (440 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Greenpeace Retardants
Where is their outrage over Chinese industry, which can be attributed to killing thousands and destroying the environment?

They give a free pass to the commies and go directly after the companies making America wealthy and successful.

Greenpeace will attack Wal-Mart next. This is how predictable the puppets have become. Its revenge for us not taking a big steamy dump on our GDP by signing Kyoto.
Posted by gerhard_schroeder (311 comments )
Link Flag
Why are their idiotic statements being reported?
Why are their idiotic statements being reported?
Greenpeace is a joke. You can't take anything they say seriously. Nothing but outright lies, scare tactics, and intellectual fraud.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
c|nets agenda is so transparent
Welcome to the echo chamber... up next, top 10 reasons why US should bow down to Kyoto diplomats. Then, a reading from the history books about how America used to have slavery. Wash all that info-goodness down with a stiff glass of American soldier blood, as we recount the US war crimes in Iraq and give you a fresh update on US casualties.

Still hungry for more? Join Charles Cooper as he explores new ways to hate Bush in his expose "The .XXX TLD : How Fundies Attack and Kill Peaceful ***** Worshipers".
Posted by gerhard_schroeder (311 comments )
Link Flag
I guess HP didn't make their contribution to Greenpeace
I guess HP didn't make a contribution to Greenpeace. It would be interesting to see if other computer companies donate to Greenpeace so those idiots don't criticize the. Similar to how companies contribute to Jesse Jackson's group PUSH so they don't get accused of racism. Just another example of extortion in action.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Greenpeace are hypocrites
Greenpeace can't even conform to the enviormental standards of a state like Alaska. They were caught violating the water quality regs when protesting a wolf hunt. It goes to show you just how hypocritical they really are.
Posted by akcrusier (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Choose - home/office fire pollution OR retardants
This is literally a question of Choose Your Poison.

Just imagine how much pollution is released into the
environment when a home or office building burns because the
plastics in a product (PC, monitor, printer...) didn't have enough
fire retardants to keep a fire from spreading.

One alternative is to use more steel to enclose a fire hazard,
which has polution issues (mining, foundry emissions, heavier
devices expending more shipping fuel...).

This issue isn't worth the fight.
Posted by BeefByproduct (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Let's be honest, though
The vast majority of homes and offices don't burn down, but
they do contain fire retardants in fabric, computers, etc.

I'm just saying that your comment is a bit of a logical fallacy; you
seem to argue that every product sold would burn if not treated
with brominated retardant, resulting in vastly greater
environmental pollution.

That's not the case. Digital peripherals not treated with retardant
don't burn spontaneously. At the same time, I agree with you;
this isn't worth the fight - but it's pretty clear that this isn't
really about the brominated separators and retardants.

Greenpeace should focus on greater awareness of issues that
impinge on the health and quality of life of all creatures - not
just the easy targets that are within a BART or CalTrain ride of
Berkeley and San Francisco. Frankly, that's what this protest is
about.
Posted by Hep Cat (440 comments )
Link Flag
screw HP
I agree GreenPeace should being concentrating
on other more important issues like what to do
with all those millions of "throw away HP printers" that break down after 6 months and are not cost effective to fix. Screw HP and its culture of planned obsolescence...screw HP
and its seriously overpriced ink cartridges...screw HP and its crappy drivers and
invasive software.....Oh yeah...I like GreenPeace.
Posted by FuKHP (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
watch out for that reef
Doh!
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Credibility
I'm sorry, but these people have no credibility... they have demonstrated that they will join any Bush-hating festival, even while hundreds of thousands of gallons of Benzene are flowing through communist rivers.

Greenpeace = Socialists
Greenpeace != Scientists
Posted by gerhard_schroeder (311 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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