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Germany

Environmentally-Friendly Computers

A German consumer group calls on buyers to consider environmental aspects when purchasing a computer.

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The days of harmful computers - like this 1981 model - are over.

Computers have made significant progress in their environmental compatability in the past years.

Many units automatically go into sleep mode when not in use and hence use less energy. Dangerous chemicals are to a large extent not used for production anymore. And monitors are no longer as harmful in terms of radiation.

But consumers can hardly recognize these advantages when they purchase a computer, says the Berlin consumer group Verbraucher Initiative.

"Not even computer dealers know about the environmental features of their products, let alone the customers," says the group's Ralf Schmidt.

There are also still quite a few bad apples in the barrel. The environmental results of some units are extremely questionable, Schmidt says.

For example, several poisonous substances, such as the chemical flame retardant polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) have been discovered in computer production.

PBDE has become more commonly found in the environment and is accumulating so rapidly in the breast milk of nursing mothers that environmentalists and some scientists are calling for a ban on it.

Schmidt recommends that consumers pay attention to environmental seals when buying a computer. In Germany, there are several organizations which approve energy-saving computers and laptops constructed in an environmentally-friendly manner.