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California wants green iPods

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California Democrats have introduced legislation to the state assembly tightening the rules on the manufacture and disposal of toxic substances used in electronics. Super-hazardous heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, lead and chromium would be covered by regulations that would come into force in 2008, if passed.

If such nasties get into the water table they can cause serious nervous damage, kidney trouble, cancers and birth defects.

Current California law enforces the phasing out of heavy metals in devices with video displays. The new bill, from San Diego member Lori Saldana, extends that to cover all electronic and battery-operated kit. She opined: "It doesn't make sense to eliminate these materials from only a portion of the products sold in California. We should be the nation's leader in eliminating the use of these toxins before any electronics hit the state's markets or landfills."

Green lobby group Californians Against Waste is sponsoring the bill. Executive director Mark Murray said: "Cell phones, iPods, computers and many other modern electronic devices have a useful life of maybe a year or two before they become obsolete. It doesn't make sense to use hazardous materials in these disposable devices."

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates that Americans dump 2m tons of hi-tech trash annually. Big manufacturers Dell, Apple and HP already have schemes encouraging consumers to recycle their obselete electronics.

The EU has passed similar legislation which comes into effect this year. ®

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