Metals Used in Mobile Phones

cell phone image by Alexey Klementiev from

While mobile phones have made communication easier, this modern convenience may cause environmental and health complications as they make their way to landfills.

The heavy metals within the devices contaminate the soil and the water, which can cause health problems in humans and other animals if they are not disposed of properly.


Cadmium, the seventh-most-deadly known substance according to the Aussie Recycling Program, is used in mobile phones in the circuit board, in some batteries and in the charger. This toxic heavy metal is not only a carcinogen, but it also causes damage to the lungs, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract, and can affect hormonal systems. This is perhaps one of the most dangerous metals used in cell phones that can potentially make its way into our food and water sources after sitting in landfills.


Lead is used to solder parts of the circuit board of a mobile phone. The batteries often also contain lead. It is commonly known that this heavy metal is extremely toxic. Not only does it cause cancer and affect the hormonal system, like cadmium, but it also impacts the nervous system. It can also hinder development, cause behavioural problems and impact reproduction.


Nickel, like cadmium and lead, is used in the batteries of cell phones. It is also used in microphones, as well as in electrical connectors on circuit boards. The surface of the phone is sometimes designed with nickel, too. This can cause problems for the user, because many people are sensitive to nickel. Those who have nickel allergies can develop skin irritation from the nickel-plated surface. Exposure to large quantities of nickel, from food and water, can cause birth defects, as well as have a negative impact on the respiratory system and the heart.