At IBM, we take a precautionary approach in selecting materials that we use in our products and processes, endeavoring to select materials that are safe for their intended use and that have the least impact on the environment. Prior to using new chemicals or materials in processes or technologies, IBM requires those chemicals or materials to undergo an extensive environmental, health and safety evaluation called an upstream chemical review. This has been a long-standing practice within IBM to ensure that we are using the least hazardous chemicals possible for a specific application, and it is a key element of IBM's approach to chemical management.

IBM's precautionary approach to materials and process stewardship is informed by our global chemical management staff, industrial hygienists and toxicologists. As a result, IBM has proactively prohibited or restricted the use of many hazardous substances in our products and processes well in advance of potential regulatory actions.

Voluntary materials prohibitions and restrictions by IBM
Substance Year Comments
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) 1978 Prohibited from use in products (Initiated phased approach for elimination in 1974. Achieved by year-end 1978.)
Trichloroethylene Late 1980s Eliminated from use in development and manufacturing processes
Ozone depleting chemicals 1990 Prohibited as expansion agents used in packaging
Polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) 1990 Prohibited from use in packaging
Heavy metals, including lead (Pb), hexavalent chromium and mercury 1990 Prohibited from use in packaging
Class I ozone depleting chemicals 1993 Eliminated from use in development and manufacturing processes, and prohibited from use in products
Asbestos 1993 Prohibited from use in products
Polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) 1993 Prohibited from use in products
Lead (Pb) 1993 Prohibited from use in plastic housings and paints
Hexavalent chromium 1993 Prohibited in inks, dyes, pigments and paints used for IBM products
Mercury 1993 Prohibited from use in IBM parts or assemblies. Specific exemptions (e.g., lamps) were added in 1999.
Cadmium 1993 Prohibited from use in inks, dyes, pigments and paints
Cadmium 1994 Prohibited from use in plastics and plating
Class II ozone depleting chemicals 1995 Eliminated from use in development and manufacturing processes, and prohibited from use in products
Ethylene-based glycol ethers Mid-1990s Eliminated from use in development and manufacturing processes
Polyvinyl chloride Mid-1990s Prohibited from use in packaging
Cadmium Mid-1990s Prohibited from use:
  • cadmium sulfide for phosphorescence in CRT monitors
  • nickel cadmium batteries in notebook computers
Lead (Pb) 1999 Prohibited from use in plastic resins
Tetrachloroethene 2002 Eliminated 99.5% of the use in development and manufacturing processes. Prohibited from new applications.
Hexavalent chromium 2002 Prohibited from plastic resins
Dichloromethane 2003 Eliminated from use in development and manufacturing processes
Specific perfluorinated compounds (PFOS and PFOA) 2005 Prohibited the development of new materials with these compounds
Polyvinyl chloride 2007 Prohibited from system enclosure parts in new products after 2007
Tetrabromobisphenol A 2007 Prohibited as an additive flame retardant in system enclosure parts for new products after 2007
Specific perfluorinated compounds (PFOS and PFOA) 2007 Prohibited from new IBM manufacturing, development and research processes
Specific perfluorinated compounds (PFOS and PFOA) 2010 Eliminated from use in manufacturing, development and research processes as of January 31, 2010
Indium and indium compounds 2017 In 2017, IBM developed, peer-reviewed, and adopted a new internal Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) for indium and indium compounds after a team of IBM toxicologists, industrial hygienists and occupational physicians concluded that the available scientific evidence suggested that current OELs recommended by government agencies for indium should be lowered as an added precaution.