(Photo by François WALSCHAERTS / AFP) (Photo by FRANCOIS WALSCHAERTS/AFP via Getty Images)

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While solar panels don’t damage the environment by producing harmful carbon emissions, they could be creating an ecological disaster in areas surrounding landfills, experts say. California, which pushed 1.3 million families to install solar panels on their homes when it offered an incentive for the switch 20something years ago, is now seeing the downside to using solar panels. The panels, which contain such toxic metals as selenium and cadmium, have been shown to contaminate groundwater when disposed of in landfills, says the University of Arizona’s Natalie Click. “People just don’t realize that there are toxic materials in those electronics, that it’s fine if it’s just sitting in a box in your house,” she says. “But once it gets crushed and put into the landfill, a lot of those toxic chemicals and materials are going to leak into your groundwater.” Another solar industry expert, Sam Vanderhoof, says the panels can be recycled, sparing groundwater of the toxic chemicals. However, only one out of every 10 panels are actually recycled, he says. “The industry is supposed to be green,” Vanderhoof says. “But in reality, it’s all about the money.”