What it's not: Bean sprouts

What it is: Zinc whiskers. These small particles of zinc are typically less than a few millimeters long and a few thousandths of a millimeter in diameter. Zinc, deposited on metals in the electroplating process, is a naturally occurring element used to inhibit corrosion. Although these particles may be infinitesimally tiny, they can result in big problems if they end up in your facility's critical electronic equipment. In fact, small conductive zinc whiskers can bridge the traces on a PCB, causing signal anomalies, temporary power loss, and complete equipment failure. In new facilities, zinc whiskers are avoided by using corrosion-resistant material other than galvanized steel. In existing facilities, raised floor tiles that include a protective bottom layer of galvanized steel on its bottom surface may have to been cleaned regularly or replaced. Conduit and support structures might also have to be replaced if the problem persists.

Editor's note: In addition to being hazardous to your facility's health, zinc whiskers offer no nutritional value.