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A Toxics-Free Future


Toxics watch group draws attention to lead solder fumes from cell phone repair shops

A waste and pollution watch group last Friday, Aug. 24 called attention to the use of lead solder wire by cell phone repair shops and the ensuing hazardous fumes that can be inhaled by technicians, their customers, and passersby.

The EcoWaste Coalition pressed for the observance of safety precautions, including the use of lead-free solder, following the recent signing by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte of Republic Act 11058, or the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act.

“While we do appreciate their role in reducing e-waste by prolonging the life of e-gadgets, we are concerned that lead solder fumes are exposing repair technicians to hazardous emissions that can harm their health and those of others, including customers who are often seen watching, sometimes in the company of young children, while their phones are being fixed,” said Primo Morillo, E-Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The inhalation of lead solder fumes and the ingestion of lead from a contaminated surface are potential exposure routes, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.

“It’s very important that air pollution from soldering activities, especially in an enclosed space, is appropriately addressed,” added Morillo who also noted the country’s phase-out of leaded gasoline in 2000 to cut lead particulates in airborne emissions from cars. “We wish the authorities can assist in training repair technicians to be more health conscious and to take safety precautions to heart.”

In line with R.A. 11058, the group urged the Department of Labor and Employment through the Occupational Safety and Health Center to conduct training programs in collaboration with shopping mall management that will train cell phone repair technicians on safe soldering work practices.

The group made the proposal after learning about the widespread use of lead solder by technicians in cell phone repair shops that are often located inside shopping malls.

Based on information gathered from cell phone repair technicians, the group obtained six samples of soldering alloys from electronic supplies stores that are commonly used in cell phone repair.

All six samples of solder wire had lead in the range of 4.62 to 67.15 percent as per X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemical analysis. None of the samples provided safety information about the usage of lead-based solder.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “a person who is exposed to lead over time may feel abdominal pain, constipated, depressed, distracted, forgetful, irritable, and nauseous or sick.” It warned that “people with prolonged exposure to lead may also be at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and reduced fertility.”

To prevent and reduce occupational lead exposure, especially for technicians engaged in the repair of cell phones and other e-gadgets, the EcoWaste Coalition echoed the following general safety precautions from published “Lead Soldering Safety Guidelines”:

  • Avoid skin burns and never touch the tip/element of a soldering iron.
  • Avoid inhalation of lead soldering fumes. Work in a well ventilated area or use local exhaust ventilation.
  • Avoid ingestion of lead due to surface contamination by keeping soldering areas clean and properly managing lead soldering waste.
  • Personnel should not eat or drink in soldering areas and should wash hands after completing soldering work.
  • Use lead free (preferable) or low lead solder whenever possible.
  • Use necessary personal protective equipment. -EcoWaste Coalition