The next casualty in the console war might be you.
In their new 'Playing Dirty' report, environmental organization Greenpeace found that all three home video game consoles - Sony's PS3, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii - tested positive for a variety of hazardous chemicals, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), beryllium, bromine, and phthalates.
The latter, found in relatively high levels in both the Xbox 360 and PS3, are not permitted in components of toys or childcare products sold in the European Union. However, game consoles are not classified as toys and therefore are not subject to existing legislation.
"Whether game consoles are classified as toys or not, they can still contain hazardous chemicals and materials that could harm humans. The technology is available for the manufacturers to design out toxics and produce greener game consoles now," said Greenpeace's Dr. Kevin Brigden in a press release.
The report found that all three systems also contained significant levels of bromine, a chemical linked to impaired memory functions and other health problems. One of the phthalates found in the 360 and PS3, a chemical called DEHP, is also known to interfere with sexual development in mammals, especially males.
Hold on -- you don't need to start wearing a cup made of reinforced steel every time you play Halo 3 just yet. Greenpeace points out that the three console manufacturers have "avoided or reduced uses of individual hazardous substances in certain materials within their consoles." Nintendo's Wii showed no traces of beryllium in its electrical contacts, the Xbox 360 used fewer brominated materials in its housing materials and the PS3 circuit boards were bromine-free.
"Our test clearly shows that a greener game console is possible, said Casey Harrell, Greenpeace International toxics campaigner. "By combining the best practices of each console design, we could replace most of the hazardous chemicals found in these game consoles with toxic free materials."
And whatever you do, don't dump your broken 360 in the trash. The group has further identified game consoles as key contributors towards a growing waste product called "ewaste." Once console have reached the end of useful life, the group said, game consoles are "often dumped and end up in unsafe and dirty recycling yards in developing countries, where toxic contents harm both the environment and the health of workers."