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Your Smartphone's Dirty, Radioactive Secret

The rare earths inside microcomputers make our lives easier. But just how toxic are the guts of your smartphone?

—By Kiera Butler
| November/December 2012 Issue

It's a sweltering late February afternoon when I pull into the Esso gas station in the tiny town of Bukit Merah, Malaysia. My guide, a local butcher named Hew Yun Tat, warns me that the owner is known for his stinginess. "He's going to ask you to buy him tea," Hew says. "Even though he owns many businesses around here, he still can't resist pinching pennies."

An older man emerges from the station office. His face and hands are mottled with white patches, his English broken.

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