Ah, cell phones. That recent graduate in your life, who's already lost a half-dozen, will be expecting an upgrade. But first, make sure that latest old phone gets recycled. The real threat from mobiles is not the microwave radiation they emit, but the pollution they release when tossed, as happens to about 135 million cell phones a year. That adds up to 65,000 tons of toxic waste: lead, mercury, cadmium, brominated fire retardants and arsenic. Give your grad an incomplete until the deed is done; to find a place nearby that accepts phones for recycling, send him or her to earth911.org.

Do cell phones zap our brains? Probably not through radiation so much as inattention, which can contribute to traffic accidents or, according to a new study to be released this July, behavioral problems in children of moms who racked up the wireless hours while pregnant. Other studies have been inconclusive, some linking years of cell phone use to brain tumors, some not.

Before popping for an ur-gadget, have your grad do a little product research into the company that makes the coveted phone. Greenpeace has just come out with its new green ratings (bad and good grades) for cellphones. Good prep for the brave new working world. Maybe it'll be a green collar job. Whatever, don't worry. You've done your best, and they'll call home.

This article originally appeared in Plenty in May 2008. The story was moved to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

The greenest cell phones
Choose a green gadget. And when it bites the dust, recycle it.