Apple bans two chemicals from product assembly after protests

Apple has found no widespread use of n-hexane and benzene at final assembly facilities for its products

Apple is banning the use of two toxic chemicals from final assembly processes for its products, after watchdog groups demanded the company replace the substances with safer alternatives.

Earlier this year, Green America and China Labor Watch had called on Apple to eliminate the use of benzene and n-hexane from its supply chain. Both substances are known to be poisonous, but are still in use at Chinese factories, including those that build Apple products, the groups claimed.

On Thursday, Apple said it investigated 22 of its final assembly facilities and found "no widespread use of benzene or n-hexane, and no evidence of worker health and safety being put at risk," according to an online report. The investigation covered facilities that employ close to 500,000 workers.

The two chemicals, however, were still found at four of the facilities, but in low concentrations that complied with Apple's safety regulations. Following the investigation, Apple concluded that safer alternatives to benzene and n-hexane exist, and so decided to ban their use as cleaning agents in the final assembly process. The change takes effect on Sept. 1.

On Thursday, Apple for the first time released a list of substances it regulates at its suppliers.

In June, Green America along with dozens of other groups sent a letter to Apple, demanding the company be more transparent in the chemicals used at its manufacturers. The groups also asked the company to create a fund to help treat factory workers, who've become ill or injured for making Apple products. Two months before, both Green America and China Labor Watch staged a related protest outside an Apple store in New York.

The U.S. tech giant has been facing persistent scrutiny over its manufacturing processes, after a string of worker suicides in 2010 at factories run by its supplier Foxconn Technology Group. Apple has been working to improve labor conditions throughout its supply chain, but some watchdog groups have said more work needs to be done, including raising workers' pay and better oversight over the factory conditions.

"The key is whether Apple can keep its promise," said Li Qiang, executive director for China Labor Watch, in a Thursday email. "Currently, Apple's auditing cannot fully uncover all the problems. Its effectiveness still has issues."

Both benzene and n-hexane are still permitted for use by Apple suppliers, but before the final assembly process and under set restrictions. The chemicals can be found as common ingredients in paint strippers, glue and household cleaners.

Previously in 2009, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in China were exposed to n-hexane. Two years later, some workers complained that their health had worsened, and wanted Apple to help pay for treatment.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags AppleenvironmentElectronics manufacturing

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

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?