Is the iPhone 5 a Green Machine?

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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has had some recent uncomfortable brushes with environmental issues, but it appears its devices are greener than most. According to an analysis conducted to measure the level of toxic chemicals found in mobile phones, the iPhone 4S and the new iPhone 5 rank among the least toxic handsets in use.

The study, published by iFixit and conducted by HealthyStuff.org, involved researchers performing X-ray fluorescence spectrometric analysis of 36 popular devices. It assigned each handset a rating on a scale of zero to five, with zero being lest toxic. The test measured 12 common hazardous chemicals, including bromine, mercury, and lead, breaking it down by product component, such as screen, solder, and circuit board. It finally assigned an overall grade to each device.

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Interestingly, Apple’s iPhone 3G brought in the worst score at 5.0, while the LG Remarq, Motorola’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Citrus, and Samsung’s Captivate and Evergreen were also ranked fairly high on toxicity. However, Apple’s newer iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 handsets were rated low concern at 2.69 and 2.75, respectively. Nokia’s (NYSE:NOK) N95, the Motorola W233 Renew, and Palm m125 each received a score of 4.5 or below.

Also, phones that received high overall ratings were not actually top performers in every category. For instance, the otherwise low concern Samsung Reclaim had a high concern proportion of arsenic.

Out of the 36 units tested, six were low concern, 24 were medium concern, and 6 were rated high concern. iFixit added that manufacturers should keep striving to improve the chemical safety of their devices, as several toxics remain in discarded handsets. “There is a trend of less toxics over time, it looks like—especially for Apple. That’s good, but it’s not good enough,” the report said.

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