Computers: Sounding the Tocsin for Toxins

Chemical pollution tarnishes an industry's clean image

High-technology entrepreneurs like to boast that their business is nonpolluting and environmentally sound. But every industry carries environmental risks, and electronics is no exception. The manufacture of computer chips, for example, requires acid baths (to etch microscopic circuits onto tiny ceramic wafers) and vats of industrial cleaning fluids (to wash away extraneous specks). And where there are powerful chemicals, waste-storage difficulties are not far behind.

Pointing up this problem, a recent California survey showed that 36 of 49 underground storage tanks in the high-tech Silicon Valley were...

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