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Medicine Displays Power Technology

California Classes LED Component Gallium Arsenide a Carcinogen 495

Posted by timothy
from the tooth-fairy-is-a-cat-burglar dept.
Reader LM741N, pointing to a report released this month by California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, writes "Gallium Arsenide has now been listed as a carcinogen. Given the increasing usage of gallium arsenide, the main constituent in LEDs, and their recent championing as more efficient light sources in recent news stories and Slashdot, there may be significant environmental concerns as related to their disposal. Morover, workers in industries using the substance may be at risk of cancer as well."
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California Classes LED Component Gallium Arsenide a Carcinogen

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  • by jeffy210 (214759) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @03:42PM (#24729309)

    Ah, California, where everything is known the cause cancer. I just got back from a trip there and saw those signs everywhere, even on most buildings. It seems to the locals it has even become a running gag.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 24, 2008 @03:58PM (#24729487)

      Ah, California, where everything is known the cause cancer.

      Including sand. When I lived there, one of the utility bills (I forget which one) always had a statement that the company used chemicals "known to the state of California to cause cancer", because they used sand at some of the plants.

      • by davester666 (731373) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @05:05PM (#24730157) Journal

        Billy! How often do I need to tell you to NOT EAT THE LED TAILLIGHTS! Just you wait until your father gets home!

      • by Ellis D. Tripp (755736) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @05:54PM (#24730577) Homepage

        or does "free range" sand not cause cancer?

      • by mccabem (44513) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @11:14PM (#24732729)

        AC: Ever worked a day in your life? I mean the hard kind of work that'll make you sweat during the day and blow black shit out of your nose and lungs at night? (or worse/similar) I doubt it.

        Some people in the US work for a living doing hazardous work. Yeah even more hazardous than jockeying that desk of yours all day.

        Of the things that can be hazardous for people to work with, some of them are hazardous to your lungs - like sand.

        "Play sand" like the kind you probably spend your days with has been thoroughly washed and graded for safety.

        People who work around industrial sand (anything from quarries to paint shops) and breath a lot of silicates (very fine sand) end up with cancer.

        I'm sure it's funny to you and some other people -- why else would so many signs be needed to point these things out?

        Sadly more people of your mind you do not expatriate to a place where they already do business "your way" such as...well, nearly any second or third world country. You can sprinkle lead paint on your corn flakes and have silica sand for desert if you like. Sure civilization has its warts, but if you don't like it, don't fake like there's no alternative and try to drag the rest of us back in time. Bye.

        -Matt

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Repossessed (1117929)

          Silicates are certainly dangerous to the lungs if not dealt with properly (as any miner before around 100 years ago, and many of them more recently), but cancer? How exactly did that get linked?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Hal_Porter (817932)

          Sadly more people of your mind you do not expatriate to a place where they already do business "your way" such as...well, nearly any second or third world country. You can sprinkle lead paint on your corn flakes and have silica sand for desert if you like. Sure civilization has its warts, but if you don't like it, don't fake like there's no alternative and try to drag the rest of us back in time. Bye.-Matt

          The problem for the US is if companies do. I've read plausible arguments that offshoring, i.e. moving manufacturing to second and third world countries is more about regulations than wage prices. E.g. electronics companies tend to run rather low labour intensive factories these days - pick and place machines populate the boards and IR or wave solderers solder them in place. You don't need many humans intervening to keep them running, and it is not a very skilled job. So the amount you could save by heading

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 24, 2008 @04:01PM (#24729525)

      Slashdot causes cancer!*

      *in California

    • by davidwr (791652) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @04:07PM (#24729593) Homepage Journal

      When you mix Californium [wikipedia.org] and Governmentium [wikipedia.org], causing cancer is the only chemical reaction that is allowed to happen.

      The radioactive decay products of Californium include Liberelium and a heavy isotope of Governmentium called Bigovernmentium, which when combined are known to be toxic.

    • by Lord Byron II (671689) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @04:07PM (#24729601)
      I can't believe the number of people bashing California for the cancer labels. Since when is it a bad thing to notify consumers that the products they're buying and using may pose a health risk? I suppose you might also be against putting cancer warning labels on cigarettes?
      • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @04:12PM (#24729667)
        Lets see... Because it seems like everything can cause cancer there. Cigarettes will cause cancer in a lot of people's lifetimes even with moderate smoking. A lot of the things that California requires warning labels to be put on only will cause you cancer if you eat 4000 of them in a year, inject them into your blood, etc. Excess warning labels only make people not read them and you know what happened when the little boy called wolf a bit too many times...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mosb1000 (710161)

        It's bad when they probably don't. The truth is that labeling laws don't accomplish anything. Especially when you put warnings about cancer on everything. Every building down here has that "known to cause cancer" sign on it. It's ridiculous scaremongering.

      • by Rakishi (759894)

        Life causes health risks so I guess we need to label all newborns on their forehead just in case (backwards so they can later read it in the mirror).

        The thing is that they're NOT notifying customers because those signs are so absurdly broad. The outside air is probably more likely to kill me than 99.9% of the things (buildings, cars, etc.) that have these signs on them. I have no idea how much of a safety risk something is or isn't. I have no ideal what chemicals are being used, where they are being used, h

      • by Moofie (22272)

        Water poses a health risk. So does sunlight.

        It's a bad thing to give people a disproportionate fear of getting cancer from things that pose trivial risks. As long as you don't eat three square meals a day of LEDs, you're probably not going to get cancer from LEDs.

        Informing people of actual risks is good. Informing people of trivial risks dilutes the notion of risk.

      • by Martin Blank (154261) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @04:31PM (#24729861) Journal

        Examples of buildings that have the signs posted:

          - Junk yards
          - Gas stations
          - Vehicle maintenance yards
          - Recycling stations
          - Apartment complexes
          - Malls
          - Grocery stores
          - Hospitals
          - Vacant lots

        And that's just the start of it. No one pays attention to them anymore, and even if we did, we wouldn't know just what the problem was, because the law only requires that the sign be posted, not explain what led to it being posted.

      • by davidwr (791652) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @04:57PM (#24730087) Homepage Journal

        Since when is it a bad thing to notify consumers that the products they're buying and using may pose a health risk?

        Since doing so excessively will trivialize the risk.

        Imagine if instead of severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings, the national weather service issued "wet weather" warnings any time it wasn't sunny. You couldn't tell the difference between a summer shower and a hurricane, and since summer showers are much more common you wouldn't realize today's warning meant 80mph winds until it was too late.

        If you are going to do warning labels for things that aren't a significant risk, you should at least put a "danger level" on them. We could have categories like for tornadoes:

        Instead of the Enhanced Fujita Scale, we'll have the Enhanced California Scale:

        EC0 - You might get cancer. But 40 million other Californians won't.
        EC1 - 1 in a million lifetime cancer risk from a single exposure
        EC2 - 1 in 10,000 lifetime cancer risk from a single exposure
        EC3 - 1 in 100 lifetime cancer risk from a single exposure
        EC4 - If you touch it and live another 50 years, you'll get cancer
        EC5 - You'll be lucky to be alive a year from now
        EC6 - You'll be lucky if you live long enough to finish reading this senten

      • by hey! (33014) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @04:59PM (#24730101) Homepage Journal

        The signs are stupid don't tell you anything useful.

        In some places, all the hotels have the sign. It doesn't tell you what the carcinogens are, how much there is, where in the facility they are, how much exposure you might get, what the risk is, or what you could do to control the risk.

        It's a pretty safe bet that any building has something that, if properly prepared and administered in sufficient quantities over a long enough time, causes cancer. The cigarettes in the hotel lobby shop mean the hotel has carcinogens. The charcoal grilled steaks in the restaurant have carcinogens. If you took apart the TV in the room and decocted the various plastics and rare metals into a kind of gritty slurry, you'd have something that you wouldn't want to put on your English muffins every morning.

        And some hotels don't have the signs. It doesn't take a genius to figure out this doesn't mean they're any different, the sign thing hasn't got there yet. Once all the hotels have the signs, then you're pretty much presented with a Hobson's choice: stay in a hotel that has carcinogens in it, or sleep in your car. Which probably has carcinogens in it.

    • by corsec67 (627446) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @04:12PM (#24729665) Homepage Journal

      Even some of the restaurants have them [flickr.com], "WARNING: Chemicals Known to the State of California to cause cancer, or birth defects, or other reproductive harm may be present in food or beverages sold here or served here"

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by lgw (121541)

      It's not jus the building, it's the cars! I'm still struggling to believe this - at first I thought the stickers (on the drivers window, no less) were some kind of meme/joke on the notices on every building, but no! Your tax dollars at work.

      Here's a hint, hippies: when every building and car has a sign on it warning that this area contains chemicals known to cause birth defects and cancer, it makes the warnings a joke. It also makes you a joke. It doesn't do anything to change the chemicals used in manu

      • by Solandri (704621)
        I've always wondered why the signs aren't everywhere outside too, since sunlight is known to cause cancer.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mysidia (191772)

      California claims to not be deciding it's carcinogenic? IARC [oehha.org]:

      IARC issued the Volume 86 in its series IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans. In this monograph, IARC concluded that gallium arsenide is carcinogenic to humans (Group 1). Health and Safety Code section 25249.8(a) requires that certain substances identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) or the National Toxicology Program (NTP), as described in Labor Code section 6382(b)(1) and (d), be inclu

    • by philspear (1142299) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @05:24PM (#24730329)

      Well, in the biology community, the fact that everything DOES seem to cause cancer is a running gag. It's kind of black comedy really. The one way to be sure that you're not going to slowly and painfully to cancer is to get killed by something else first. Ha ha...

      I blame our early RNA-based ancestors for choosing an imperfect nucleotide-based system of keeping notes that has not been significantly improved (aside from the DNA version at some point.) Is it too much to ask that the genetic material be completely error-free?

      Physicists would say yes, but I say they're cowards, traitors, and anti-life.

    • by aurispector (530273) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @06:41PM (#24730901)

      Bah! In my day we had blankets made out of asbestos so the cigarettes we smoked in bed wouldn't burn holes. We had lead paint on our tableware and lead in our water supply pipes. We put mercury solutions on our cuts, brushed our teeth with PCB's and washed our hair with dioxin. We spent every day in the sun without sunblock and it was GOOD for us.

      Kids these days have it too easy.

  • by corsec67 (627446) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @03:43PM (#24729315) Homepage Journal

    I guess I will have to stop eating LEDs, at least while in California.

  • !Carginogen (Score:5, Funny)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @03:44PM (#24729321) Homepage Journal

    I, for one, am terrified of anything called a "Carginogen".

    • Re:!Carginogen (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Firethorn (177587) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @03:57PM (#24729465) Homepage Journal

      I think that this is more or less the point. California has lost sight of 'risk management' in favor of 'risk avoidance'.

      The problem? You can't economically avoid all risk. Apple seeds contain a poison/carcinogen. Yet, in order to have a risk of getting cancer from it along the lines of winning the lottery - you'd have to practically eat your body mass in seeds.

      Lead is a carcinogen, in fairly massive doses. It'll generally lead to heavy metal poisoning long before you have to worry about it giving you cancer. As a bonus, when contained in a solder you really only have to worry about it if you're drinking water run over it, like in pipes. Sitting in your playstation or DVD player, it's not a concern to anybody but the workers soldering all day, and we have machines for that now.

      Yet we spend billions on developing lead free solder techniques that create bonds that are worse than lead ones for these applications*, tending to break more often.

      California bans** incandescent light bulbs - then starts screaming and holloring about the relatively tiny amount of mercury in fluorescent bulbs, now the gallium arsenide in LED lights.

      When you have those 'contains something california has determined causes cancer' signs on everything, it becomes useless because you can't just chose to use stuff without them, and if you look at the literature the risk is negligible anyways. So it just ends up being a waste of time, effort, and money.

      Heck, I'm fairly certain that the gallium in a LED is protected enough that even if a tyke ate a led it'd just come out the other end.

      What california should do is set a standard - only the more dangerous cancer causing substances such as cigarettes and asbestos get the warning. Other items with carcinogenic substances have to show how well sealed the substance is/amounts, which is plugged into some sort of equation to see if it requires a sign. Then people will probably pay attention to the signs.

      I'm sorry, but this is the sort of stuff that makes people think that the greenies just want to send us back to the stone age.

      *You have a point if you're looking at drinking water pipes, but otherwise?
      **In the future, but play with me

      • Re:!Carginogen (Score:5, Insightful)

        by txoof (553270) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @04:14PM (#24729687) Homepage

        Sign blindness is more of a real problem than the tiny amount of Gallium in LEDs. If you want to protect people, you can't deluge them with constant warnings. They eventually become sign blind and begin ignoring, or worse mocking warning labels. According to the labels, every can of paint in the hardware store causes cancer in California. But what I don't know is if paint A is going to make me infertile the moment I look at it, or if paint B is just a problem if I drink 5 gallons of it. The labels don't have any kind of granularity.

        A color coded system might do consumers well. No color==mostly OK. Green==Don't eat a bunch of this, it's not good for you. Yellow==Take care when using this, ventilation is a good idea and long term exposure is probably going to hurt you. Red==For the love of all that is holly, wear a respirator or leave it for the pros. Black==if you are reading this, you're already dead.

        California needs to remember that poison is in the portion. EVERYTHING is poisons in the right quantity. A warning label can be useful, when not slapped on every surface that it can physically bond to.

        Warning! This cliff is known to the state of California to cause plummeting, falling and smassing of bones. Gravity in effect at edge of cliff face! Short term exposure to gravity can cause serious injury.

        • by cecil_turtle (820519) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @04:24PM (#24729797)
          I wonder what will happen if they find the cancer warning labels can cause cancer.
        • by Firethorn (177587)

          A color coded system might do consumers well. No color==mostly OK. Green==Don't eat a bunch of this, it's not good for you. Yellow==Take care when using this, ventilation is a good idea and long term exposure is probably going to hurt you. Red==For the love of all that is holly, wear a respirator or leave it for the pros. Black==if you are reading this, you're already dead.

          Very good idea. Heck, for the red/black we already have a few symbols for(HAZMAT). It'd be nice to know that Paint A is considered 50%

      • by sjames (1099)

        I'm sorry, but this is the sort of stuff that makes people think that the greenies just want to send us back to the stone age.

        What, are you CRAZY! Stones are minerals and asbestos is a mineral! We MUST return to BEFORE the stone age if we're to be safe. Please report to the devolver immediately!

      • I agree with most of your points. But the main motivation behind lead-free solder is not the protection of the hardware user. The lead is a concern when we dispose of the hardware though, when the heavy metals can leach into groundwater, poisoning aquifers and the like.
      • by UltraAyla (828879)

        California bans** incandescent light bulbs

        Not true, even in the future - it hasn't even been introduced. This was a proposal a year and a half ago that wasn't even voted on and died.

        I'm sorry, but this is the sort of stuff that makes people think that the greenies just want to send us back to the stone age.

        It's a notification, not a regulation - there is no regression involved. It simply informs people. If you don't like it, ignore the signs. They aren't that bad.

      • Apple seeds contain a poison/carcinogen. Yet, in order to have a risk of getting cancer from it along the lines of winning the lottery - you'd have to practically eat your body mass in seeds.

        That's not correct. Half a coffeecup of apple seeds will, in fact, cause the death of an adult human. They do have to be ingested fresh (that is, soon after removed from the fruit).
        Apple seeds have been "recommended" by some suicide websites, as an effective an easily accessible poison.

  • According to the media, everything causes and cures cancer [today.com].

  • I'd love to see if the CFL industry had anything to do with the funding of this study. Seeing as CFLs are only here temporarily until LEDs take hold.

    And CFL has mercury in it... evil mercury... When was the last time an LED split open spreading gallium arsenide all over the place?
    • by niiler (716140)
      Bingo. And check this out about tungsten, you know, the stuff used in filaments of incandescent bulbs:

      Biologic results also identified tungsten as a potentially unique exposure within Churchill County. We are working with NSHD to further define tungsten exposure in Nevada and to evaluate potential routes of exposure. Because of our study findings, the National Institutes of Health is considering tungsten as a priority chemical for toxicologic research.

      From: CDC [cdc.gov].

      To be fair, it says that this n

    • by sjames (1099)

      And CFL has mercury in it... evil mercury

      So the solution is a certified lead and gallium arsenide free mercury program!

  • When will we get past stuff like this? LED's cause cancer. Cell phones cause cancer. Nuclear power plants are dangerous. Is there a strange group out there that wants to go back to a tribal hunter/gatherer type existence? Take our population down to a couple of million?
    • Is there a strange group out there that wants to go back to a tribal hunter/gatherer type existence? Take our population down to a couple of million?

      Yes, they are called environmentalists.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Sorry, hunting and gathering cause cancer.

  • CFLs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by OrangeTide (124937) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @03:53PM (#24729407) Homepage Journal

    CFLs cause cancer too. As technology uses more advanced chemistry (and the ability of medical technology to determent the carcinogenic properties of more materials) we can only find more dangers in the technology we use everyday.

    The important thing to do is to educate everyone that some materials need to be treated with care. And should not be ingested or inhaled. And should be disposed of immediately if they are damaged or broken. In addition disposable of all possibly toxic materials needs to handled specially. And if we're going to have CFLs, CRTs, LEDs, and other three letter acronyms in our households, then each and every one of us needs to be educated on what needs to be taken through a special technology disposable/recycling process.

    Here's a list of things people throw in the garbage that they should not have: rechargeable batteries, fluorescent lights, TV tubes(lead), car batteries(these are normally exchanged), used motor oil, appliances, electronics, ...

    ideally you should only be throwing out old food, soiled paper/cardboard, plastic. and recycling glass and non-toxic metals(steel, aluminum). you can try and recycle plastic too, but it is debatable.

  • by BitterOldGUy (1330491) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @03:55PM (#24729437)
    to cause cancer and everything associated with living. As a result, the California legislature has required that signs be posted every where that states, "Living causes cancer. To limit your risk, stop living."
  • This could be a major stumbling block for the solar panel industry. Also, maybe someone with more experience could comment, but I thought that GaAs was considered to be a possible replacement for silicon in chips in the future.
    • This could be a major stumbling block for California .

      There, fixed it for you. Everyone knows that 75% of the people in charge in California are insane, the rest of the US couldn't care if it could possibly contain cancer causing substances becuase the rest of the world knows not to care about California's labels.

  • Drat, what am I going to eat now? In light of this news, I am going to have to remove LED's from my diet. And they are so tasty. On a side note, a LOT of chemicals used to manufacture things are highly poisonous. But this is generally only a danger to those doing the manufacturing, and only if they don't take proper precautions.
  • Umm.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spiffmastercow (1001386) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @04:15PM (#24729701)
    Isn't one of the main advantages of LEDs the fact that you almost never need to replace them, which means (in theory) that they will rarely be discarded? And if they are rarely discarded, then isn't the disposal issue a moot point?
  • by SEWilco (27983) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @04:20PM (#24729743) Journal
    Who would have thought that a simple natural element such as Arsenic could be bad for you?

    But they haven't warned about gallium arsenide phosphide so the yellow, orange, and red LEDs must be safe.

  • Is that stuff worse than the mercury found in CFLs? Does it escape as easily (ie if you drop it, does it contaminate the area)? Or is this just something that suppliers manufacturers need to worry about to limit worker exposure?

    Conspiracy theorists will say that it's the CFL makers who pushed this while marketing thin glass tubes full of mercury vapor as a consumer-safe product... I can't say I've ever seen an LED that's been smashed but I've had a number of CFL bulbs break, which apparently turns the si

  • Okay, but I thought we were shifting over to OLED's some time in the near-future. Does this apply to them as well?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 24, 2008 @04:53PM (#24730049)

    I just wanted to point out that while many LED's are GaAs-based, most of the newer LED's that are starting to be used to replace things like traffic lights and light bulbs are GaN-based. No arsenic involved. Very non-toxic. In theory, your kid could eat several of the dies and be okay.

  • by philspear (1142299) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @05:34PM (#24730433)

    Like all americans, I want a magic bullet to the problem of carcinogens and cancer! I hear a lot of chatter about incandescent light bulbs and waste, fluorescent light bulbs and mercury, and LEDs and cancer. I don't understand any of it, but I'm certain it's those bureacratic fat cats in Sacramento that are making me so very confused! If they didn't put those warnings on stuff, it probably woudn't be a problem!

    Why won't someone just make it simple? Wave an american flag in the direction of the perfect light bulb that has no real-world problems that I can pick up at walmart on my way to Ikea while driving in my hummer and forget all about cancer, global warming, and mercury forever.

    Is that really too much to ask?!? I'm beggin you, lie to me and tell me there are perfect solutions! Just give me one saying that will solve the problem completely without consequences that fits on a bumper sticker and I'm there instantly!

  • GaN not GaAs (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sir Holo (531007) on Sunday August 24, 2008 @10:13PM (#24732339)
    Submitter is incorrect and misleading.

    Blue and white LEDs are based on gallium nitride, not gallium arsenide. Completely different material.

    GaN, not GaAs.

    It's the arsenic that's bad. It is in some specialized non-consumer electronics, but it is most definitely NOT in LEDs.

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