Groups ask Apple to end toxic chemical use

Used in electronics factories, benzene can cause cancer and n-hexane can cause nerve damage

Environmental pressure groups and human rights organisations have sent a joint letter to Apple's chief environmental officer asking her to eliminate toxic chemicals from the company's supply chain.

The letter is the latest in a string of efforts by such groups to get Apple to pressure its suppliers into halting the use of benzene and n-hexane, both of which are toxic and have been linked to worker illness in Chinese factories.

N-hexane is used to clean screens, and prolonged exposure to it can cause nerve damage or paralysis, while benzene is a carcinogen used as a cleaning agent for electronic components.

Apple isn't the largest phone maker and is far from alone in having the chemicals used in manufacturing of its products, but is being targeted because it's seen as the most influential among a number of brand-name electronics companies.

"We're asking Apple for strategic reasons and because we think they'll actually do this," said Elizabeth O'Connell, campaigns director at Green America, when asked why the focus wasn't Samsung, which is the world's largest smartphone maker.

"We are less hopeful that Samsung will do this anytime soon," she said. "But if we can get Apple to be the first mover, we will have a lot more leverage against Samsung."

A string of suicides among workers in Chinese electronics factories turned the spotlight on the sometimes poor working conditions endured by workers who produce gadgets like iPhones. After initially appearing to downplay the problem, Apple has taken a number of proactive steps to improve conditions and conducts several hundred audits of its suppliers each year.

It has pressured its suppliers to improve working conditions, imposed a number of new conditions on them and begun publishing regular reports on how they are doing. But the reports aren't detailed enough for some.

The letter to Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environmental affairs, asks her to ensure that Apple is tracking worker exposure to benzene and n-hexane, to publish the data and to eventually halt the use of the chemicals. It also asks that Apple ensure that workers who have fallen ill from the chemicals are compensated for medical treatment.

The letter is the second step in a campaign that was launched earlier this year by Green America.

In March, the group sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking him to ensure that the two chemicals are banished from the supply chain.

Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or
Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags AppleenvironmentElectronics manufacturing

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >

Mobile

Sansai 6-Outlet Power Board + 4-Port USB Charging Station

Learn more >

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?