I’ve been waiting to see a picture of Greenpeace’s signage work at HP, and here it is in the LA Times.  The large sign, spray painted on the roof of HP’s HQ, reads “Hazardous Products,” and was thrown up fast using non-toxic paint.  Basically, Greenpeace is concerned that HP is taking too long to phase out certain compounds, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC)  and polybrominated biphenyls (PBB’s).  Apparently other computer manufacturers have already phased them out.

PVC is pretty well known–PVC pipe is used all over the place.  More on PVC in another post.  PBB’s have fire retardant properties; that is, if you put PBB’s in kid’s pajamas, they won’t catch fire as fast.  I remember back when it was found that PBB’s have toxic properties, and they were removed from pajamas.

PBB’s led to a major environmental disaster in Michigan in the 1970′s.  A PBB fire retardant (called Firemaster) got mistakenly mixed with cattle feed, and it was a long time before it was learned why the cattle were dying.  A lot of PBB’s ended up in the food chain (including mother’s milk) before it was over and the epidemiologists are still studying effects of the disaster on human health.  It was big news at the time.  As reported here:

By the end of 1975, 28,900 cattle had been destroyed; buried with them were 865 tons of animal feed and 27 tons of various dairy products. As investigations into the disaster continued, it became clear that beef and milk were not the only products affected. Feed for other animals was contaminated when it was mixed on the same machinery; carcasses of cattle not fit for sale were rendered to yield protein supplements in other animal feed. In addition to the cattle and milk, 5,920 pigs, 1.5 million chickens, and nearly 5 million eggs were destroyed.

With this history, it is small wonder that the computer firms are getting on the stick to find substitutes.