Poisoned Chinese iPhone workers still seeking treatment

Workers have sent another letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking the company to help pay for medical treatment

A group of Chinese workers who were poisoned while manufacturing iPhones say Apple and its supplier have yet to provide for the additional medical treatment they urgently need.

In 2009, 137 workers at an Apple supplier factory in Suzhou, China were exposed to n-hexane, a chemical cleaning agent. Apple has said the workers have been all successfully treated since the incident occurred. But a group of remaining workers at the factory say their health is worsening and that Apple has yet to do anything to help them.

"My health isn't that good," said Jia Jing Chuan, a worker at the factory. "My legs feel heavy, my hands are numb. I keep sweating all the time."

Last month, Chinese and foreign news outlets reported on the workers situation. But since then, two workers there say little has changed. The workers have even sent an e-mail message to Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking him to intervene. It the third e-mail the workers have sent.

"Apple helps so many of its customers to buy products, we hope they can do the same with their own workers," Jia said.

In late February, two Apple representatives arrived at the factory to speak with the affected workers, Jia said. But the workers were given no assurances that action would be taken and have heard nothing since. The supplier, Taiwanese company Wintek, has responded to the health concerns by having the workers participate in daily exercises.

Fourteen of the workers, however, underwent a health examination at a hospital. Doctors there said the workers' conditions have grown more serious and that they should be hospitalized, Jia said. But the workers cannot afford the medical fees. Jia said treatment would cost him 1000 yuan ($152) a day, about what he earns in a month.

There are currently 22 workers still at the factory who were exposed to the n-hexane poisoning, said Guo Ruiqiang, another worker at the factory. Over the weekend, Wintek said only three of those workers would receive additional treatment in the form of cheap medicine, Guo added.

"I'm very disappointed," he said. "Wintek has not accepted any of our requests for further treatment."

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Wintek has compensated the workers in full for their medical expenses and is not avoiding its responsibilities, the company said in a e-mail message. In an earlier interview, Wintek said it was following proper procedures according to Chinese law in treating workers for industry-related injuries. The company also said it was handling workers exposed to the n-hexane on a case-by-case basis.

Earlier this month, Wintek also released a statement on its website, reiterating that it provided the affected workers with full medical care.

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Tags AppleenvironmentElectronics manufacturingHealth and safetyWintek

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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