PC Doctor March 25, 2019

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Dear PC Doctor:

I have had my cell phone for four years. I’ve dropped it a few times. The first time, I was able to “repair” it by taping the front glass with clear packaging tape. This time, half the screen doesn’t work, I can’t see texts, the camera is broken, and I can’t hear people if they call. I’m biting the bullet and getting a new phone. My question is: Is it okay to take it apart? I’d love to see what’s inside. Is it dangerous?



Dear Hannah:

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, cell phones contain glass, plastic (made from oil), liquid crystalline, copper, gold, lead (in circuit boards and batteries), silver, palladium, and lithium metallic oxide. Phones can also contain mercury (in the battery, display, and circuit boards), arsenic (in microchips), cadmium (in the battery), chlorine (in the plastics) and bromine (fire retardant), which can leak into the groundwater and cause damage to the soil, water supply, vegetation, animals, and humans.

If you do decide to explore inside your cell phone, wear protective eye gear, gloves, and a mask. Do not use any tools or pocketknives that you use for food or beauty care. Don’t do it directly on your dining room table and be sure to collect all the small pieces that a child or pet might swallow. It might be a safer bet to watch some online videos of phone dissections, instead. You can find many on YouTube. If you watch videos from repair shops, you’ll see that they are wearing gloves and do not touch any of the components directly.

Consider finding a new purpose for your old phone once you’re finished with it. If it’s in usable condition, it can be donated to a charity. Be sure to remove all personal information and take out the sim card.

If your phone is not usable, it can be recycled for its components. The metals and plastics can be recovered and reused. Even the battery can be repurposed. Your cell phone service provider should be able to help you find a recycling location.

Until next time,
Happy Computing!

PC Doctor

Editor's Note: Questions should be directed to PC Doctor, care of the Athol Public Library, info@athollibrary.org or Athol Public Library, 568 Main St., Athol, Mass. 01331, or dropped off at the library.