Greenpeace, the environmental campaign group has slammed Toshiba for failing to meet a self-imposed target for ridding its products of harmful chemicals. The Japanese electronics maker had committed to removing polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from all its consumer electronics products by 1 April, but the company didn't manage to meet that goal.

PVC and BFRs have the potential to damage the environment and harm human health if they are not disposed of properly, and their elimination has been a major goal of Greenpeace's quarterly 'Guide to Greener Electronics'. The latest guide, published today, sees Toshiba become the first Japanese company to attract a penalty for missing the deadline. As a result the company has fallen from 3rd place to 14th place in the closely-watched ranking.

"Toshiba is dropping like a stone," said Iza Kruszewska, a Greenpeace toxics campaigner, at a Tokyo news conference.

In a statement, Toshiba said it "has been making utmost efforts to promote replacement of PVC or BFRs for digital products, and will continue to do so, by comprehensively evaluating various factors such as performance, cost, productivity and other factors." Toshiba did not immediately provide a comment on the Greenpeace claims or ranking.

The latest ranking confirmed Nokia's position at the top and Sony Ericsson remained in second place. Both companies have eliminated the chemicals from all their products and score well on energy efficiency and for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Philips moved up a position to third and Motorola was in fourth place, up three places. The rest of the top ten was: Apple (no change), Panasonic (up 4), Sony (up 1), Hewlett-Packard (up 3) and Sharp (up 4).

Toshiba is the fifth company to miss a self-imposed deadline for removal of toxic chemicals. Samsung, Dell, Lenovo and LG Electronics all attracted penalty points in the last edition of the guide after missing 2009 deadlines. With the latest guide, Samsung has the dubious distinction of becoming the first company to lose a further point. It was removed because the company failed to come up with a revised timeline to eliminate the chemicals from its TVs.

Companies gave different reasons for missing their deadlines, depending on their product portfolio, said Kruszewska. Some cite technical problems, such as signal interference on PC motherboards, as the reason they have not yet switched, she said.

"We've also heard some more honest answers, I would say, from some of the companies when we've drilled down. And that is that they didn't expect their competitors to make it. They just didn't believe that some companies like Apple, like HP, like Acer would really come out with products that are free of PVC and brominated flame retardants," said Kruszewska.

Pressure from Greenpeace appears to be an important factor in pushing companies to stop using PVCs and BFRs. Apple was an early target of the campaign and it became one of the first to rid its products of the chemicals.

The campaign group has recently begun attempting to enlist the companies in lobbying for stronger environmental regulations that would ban the chemicals outright. Greenpeace is pushing for the enactment of new regulations because they would give electronics manufacturers firm deadlines to be met.