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The Environmental Cost of Printed Circuit Boards

Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
February 10th, 1997

Printed circuit boards are the physical structures on which electronics components are mounted. Manufacturing is divided into five steps: board preparation, application of conductive coatings, soldering, fabrication and assembly. These steps produce the following wastes.

CloudAir Pollutants

  • particulates
  • acid fumes
  • ammonia fumes
  • organic vapors
  • CFCs, or chlorofloro carbons

LakeWaste Stream Pollutants

  • acid and alkaline solutions
  • electroless copper baths
  • catalyst solutions
  • developing solutions
  • resist material
  • etchants
  • aqueous metals
  • plating baths
  • metals, including nickel, silver, copper, lead
  • flux residue
  • deionized water

Other Wastes

  • sludge
  • scrap board metal
  • waste rinse water
  • solder
  • filters
  • gloves

The electronics industry uses tetrabromobisophenol-A (TBBA) to produce fire-resistant printed circuit boards. Methyl bromide, a pesticide classified as a category I acute toxin and a potent ozone depleter, is a byproduct of TBBA.

Alternatives: Principles for a Just and Sustainable Industry

Sources: EPA, 1995. The Bromide Barons, Political Ecology Group and Transnational Resource & Action Center, forthcoming March 1997.

For more information, contact:
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
760 N. First Street
San Jose, CA 95112
Phone: (408) 287-6707
Fax: (408) 287-6771