The Dangers Of Video Gaming

Katie Young
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Wednesday - June 11, 2008

For those of you who remember a column I did a few years back about how men need to put down the video game controller and pay attention to their girlfriend/wife, it’s well-documented that video games are not high on my list of favorite things. So it will come as no surprise to you that I share the following information as yet another reason why the game consoles have got to go!

According to a report published by the environmental organization Greenpeace, Nintendo’s Wii, Sony’s PlayStation 3 Elite and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 all tested positive for a variety of hazardous chemicals, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), beryllium, bromine and phthalates.

The report, titled Playing Dirty, notes that phthalates, which are found in relatively high levels in both the Xbox 360 and PS3, are not permitted in components of toys or childcare products in certain parts of the world. But because game consoles are not classified as “toys,” they are not subject to the same restrictions.

Phthalates have been known to interfere with sexual development in mammals, including humans and especially males.

In addition, bromine, which is used in circuit boards and plastic casings, do not break down easily and build up in the environment, according to Greenpeace.

They also note that long-term exposure can lead to impaired learning and memory function and can also interfere with thyroid and estrogen hormone systems. Exposure in the womb has also been linked to behavioral problems.

Greenpeace maintains that a more environmentally friendly game console is possible.

The organization states that the game consoles market is one of the fastest growing in consumer electronics, with more than 60 million sold over the last year.

Now, before you go tossing your husband’s or boyfriend’s game system out the window when he’s not home, Greenpeace also stated that tests showed each manufacturer had avoided or reduced uses of individual hazardous substances in certain materials within their consoles.

The report states that the Nintendo Wii managed quite well without using beryllium in its electrical contacts, and use of PVC and phthalates was limited. The PlayStation 3 also included “bromine-free” circuit boards, and the Xbox 360 used fewer brominated materials in its housing materials.

If you still feel the need to toss the console in the trash (which, honestly, I still feel tempted to do) there is one more warning from Greenpeace: Game consoles contribute toward the fastest-growing type of waste: ewaste. Discarded consoles typically end up being dumped in unsafe and dirty recycling yards in developing countries where toxic contents harm both the environment and the health of workers.

So we get all the fun and someone else gets the toxic mess? That hardly seems fair.

Truly, the whole thing makes me nervous. Surely there are many things we encounter in our daily lives that are potentially hazardous and toxic to us and our children. But this is why I don’t like sitting in front of the computer too long and I never stand in front of the microwave when it’s on. You just never know.

Technology can be a wonderful thing that makes more of the world’s pleasures accessible and easy to enjoy. However, I’m with Greenpeace on this one. Toxic-free should be the standard at any cost. Who knows how long it could take to truly know the long-term effects of daily use of such items? Are you willing to wait and see? Is there really any excuse for “playing dirty?”

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