And this isn’t just a great excuse to tell your boss when you want a few days off work; it’s true.

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A few years back, a disturbing article was released by the Spring Morning Herald in Australia outlining the specific toxins spewed by our very own personal computers — the staples in our lives, the gadgets we are essentially attached to day in and day out. Referred to as “toxic dust,” this substance has been linked to neurological and reproductive disorders and was found in computer processors and monitors. This dust was linked directly to autism in children. That alone should be enough to make people wake up and pay attention, but they still haven’t.

Even though that study was conducted and released nearly 6 years ago, stories of illness and even death in relation to “toxic dust” in computers are still emerging. In 2008, a correctional officer from Cottondale, FLA. died of unknown causes at the age of 36. Her family blamed her death on the unsafe computer recycling program the state prison had in place. She had been present when the old PCs were being dismantled and was exposed to high levels of cadmium and lead — ingredients we sit in front of everyday 9-to-5.

Of course, we aren’t taking our computers apart everyday (unless we’re having a particularly horrible workday that is), however, there are those whose job it is to dismantle and destroy old PCs for recycling or reuse. And these are the individuals who stand the greatest risk to computer “toxic dust.”

Computers contain some pretty nasty toxins: barium, berylium, cadmium, lead, mercury, brominated flame retardents, polychlorinated biphenyls, hexavalent chromium, phosopherous; and each of these toxins poses a threat to specific areas of the human body. From neurological disorders to kidney failure, these PC toxins can be deadly in high doses, and for those who dismantle and destroy PCs as their job, the risk is astronomically high.

E-waste is a major concern in today’s society and something we as a society should be looking to rectify and control as soon as possible.

What can you do to make a difference in the e-waste and keep yourself and your family safe from harmful PC toxic dust?

First of all, you can look to buy “green” the next time you purchase a PC. While computer manufacturers have not completely eradicated toxins from their builds, they are making an effort to lessen them. So, look for products certified by the EPA’s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) which is based on a Euro standard of Restriction of Hazardous Substances. There are a total of 23 criterion that must be met to achieve a Gold rating, and Silver and Bronze follow. Not only is this rating concerned with energy efficiency, it is also directly linked to the materials used to construct computer, therefore promoting the use of less toxic materials.

By visiting you can learn more about these rating systems and criteria, as well as checking out the manufacturers who are involved in the program and what ratings their systems get. (Is your work PC spewing toxic dust, or are you in front of a EPEAT certified unit?)

Along with a “green” PC, you might want to consider an air purifier in your office (either at home or at work) to ensure any residual toxic dust is capture and filtered before it can enter your lungs and body and cause harm. The ideal unit to get the job done? The RSU Series unit from Electrocop. There’s one sitting behind me right now (yes, an actual person is writing these — amazing), and I feel the difference in my lungs. The air is clean, crisp and I don’t smell that “office” smell. I even have a printer beside me that I use regularly and I never catch a whiff of the “printer smell” either. Amazing. The RSU series offers superior performance in air scrubbing to clean and recirculate air. They can be used as stand-alone units (like I have) or ducted to machinery for direct source capture.

Computers are such a part of our everyday lives that we take them (and their effects on us) for granted. Remember your computer isn’t just toxic for your social life, it’s toxic for your life in general if you don’t respect the facts and take measures to ensure you protect yourself.