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How do we deal with hazardous substances in the phone?

First, we want to shed some light on the fact that there are (many) hazardous substances used in the production of a product, some of them irreplaceable. In the EU there are several laws that ban the existence of toxic substances in the final goods (like the RoHS), but do not ban the use of these substances in the production processes. This is understandable as the problem is not the chemicals themselves but the (possible) lack of adequate worker training or protective equipment when handling them.


When using hazardous substances, producers should apply best practices. This includes performing risk assessments for the health and safety of workers and the environment: that is, gathering information about the hazardous substances from accredited sources like supplier safety data sheets, ranking their risk, and taking measures to provide protective equipment and proper environments (where total elimination is not possible). In addition to this research, it is necessary to have adequate management plans in place in case of accidents and proof of adequate regular staff training.


This is probably one of the trickiest topics we deal with here at Fairphone. We are approaching this from a variety of angles. We have a standard operating procedure for due diligence which allows us to comply with the European Law on restricted substances. For the production of the Fairphone 1 and 2, we work together with experts and review documentation, materials and practices used in the phone’s assembly. Also we are collecting as many full material declarations as possible from the companies that deliver components that are used in our product. The hundreds of components used in Fairphone 2 are produced by companies all over the world, and sometimes individual components contain over one hundred substances (for example, our display module contains over 200 substances).


In these declarations you can find raw metals like copper, gold and tantalum, but also complex chemical compounds. Suppliers need to ensure that their products comply with stringent European laws (mainly Reach and ROHS), but we are striving to achieve full transparency with them so that we can also do our own due diligence to make sure things are done properly. This increased transparency allows us not only to protect the consumer and the environment, but also to map the usage of materials in the build-up of products, in order to evaluate how we can further improve on our total impact when creating and manufacturing products.


Our policies and current status (October 2016)

  • For all the components we collect RohS compliance documentation and test reports which we review per component. This helps us ensure that the levels of hazardous chemicals such as lead, cadmium, chromium VI, PBDEs and PBBs do not surpass the thresholds set in the ROHS regulation (1000 ppm, except for cadmium, 100 ppm).
  • Regarding REACH legislation, Fairphone is monitoring periodically the potential presence of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) above 1000 ppm. The list of restricted substances within the REACH regulation changes every six months.  
  • We have collected more than 75% of all the material declarations for the 500+ components that are used in the production of the Fairphone 2. This allows us to dive further in the material composition and in the future, focus step by step on tackling additional substances.

 

In addition, we would like to mention some important facts on some other important hazardous substances, for which we are taking further action:

PVC (Polyvinylchloride)
The Fairphones are free of PVC.

Halogenated Flame Retardants
All Fairphone 2 materials comply with the ROHS directive requirements set for Brominated Flame Retardants, limiting the use of PBDEs and PBBs at concentrations < 1000 ppm at homogeneous material level.
Additionally, we are actively avoiding the use of other Halogenated Flame Retardants and strive to phase these out completely. We constantly push our suppliers to use the HFR-free options whenever possible.
For example:  flame retardants of concern such as HBCDD and TBBPA have not been detected when tested in specific components (PCBs, filters, connectors, resistors, etc.).

Phtalates
We are actively avoiding the use of Phtalates by requesting our suppliers to deliver components free of Pthalates.
All our structural plastics are free of Phtalates.
We are in the process of confirming the final composition of materials in some sub-assemblies where some complex materials are used in smaller quantities, for examples, in the integrated circuits packaging substrates and bodies.

Benzene and n-Hexane
These substances are not used in the final assembly of Fairphone 2. Instead, Ethylalcohol is used.

But off course, challenges remain. There are more hazardous substances mentioned above used in production and productions processes. While we would like to restrict as many hazardous substances as possible, we need to take this step by step and keep you updated on the progress we make on the way.

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