Poison TV Rumor Hotline

Wait! Stop! Don't be afraid of your LCD TV! The rumors about its toxicity are waaay overblown. The guy in the next-door cubicle has probably already warned you about nitrogen trifluoride, and how it makes your TV into a ticking greenhouse time bomb. And, as with any urban legend, there's a tinge of truth to it, but the facts are far less dramatic.

The rumor is going around that flat-screen TVs contain nitrogen trifluoride (pictured), a monster greenhouse-warming gas with a global warming potential that is 17,200 times greater than that of CO2. Moreover, the gas can cause liver and kidney damage. Furthermore, the rumor predicts global catastrophe when these TVs hit local landfills.

The reality is that flat panel displays do not contain NF3. Instead, it is used in factories for the production of LCD panels, cleaning the chambers where the panels are fabricated. NF3 is mildly toxic, and in quantities is a potent greenhouse gas. However, NF3 is actually preferred over traditional cleaning agents such as carbon tetrafluoride, hexafluoroethane, and sulfur hexafluoride. They are far worse on the environment, and because they don't break down, large quantities are released into the atmosphere. In contrast, about 99% of NF3 is broken down.

Is NF3 good for the environment? No. Is it yet another price we pay for our modern technologically-driven society? Yes. As an environmentally-aware consumer, should you immediately pack up your brand-new 65-inch LCD display and send it to a proper disposal site? Yes, absolutely. IM me and I'll send you my address. -Ken C. Pohlmann