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article imageEnvironmental Group's Suit Alleges Toxin in iPhones

By Chris V. Thangham     Oct 16, 2007 in Technology
An Oakland environmental group has filed a complaint against the popular iPhone, saying the device contains a reproductive toxin that violates California law. Apple has 60 days to respond to the complaint.
The Center for Environmental Health based in Oakland says iPhone has phthalates (a group of chemicals that can cause birth defects) in the vinyl plastic earphone wiring. It was discovered by a Greenpeace report.
California State’s Proposition 65 law stipulates products that expose the public to chemicals that are reproductive toxins or carcinogens must carry a warning sign on the product or be taken off the market. iPhone doesn’t have this warning label.
Charles Margulis, the Center’s spokesman wants Apple to take the toxic chemicals out of the product and make them safer to use. Apple has 60 days to respond to this complaint. Phthalates are banned in toys in San Francisco and European Union.
According to the San Jose Mercury News:
"This isn't a toy. But the overall exposure of the public in general is a problem, especially for children," said Rick Hind, legislative director for Greenpeace's toxics campaign. "It's a reproductive hazard. It could be a kidney hazard."
Unlike many other companies, Apple is actually working constantly with environmental groups and tries to implement safety and environmental protective measures in its products.
Bill Walker, a vice president of the Environmental Working Group in Oakland, said Apple is doing its job but it has problems such as batteries in iPods which are eventually thrown into landfills.
Ted Smith, executive director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, said the problem with tech companies is they use parts from all over the world with thousands of suppliers, making it difficult to monitor quality and standards across the board.
In the past, everything from raw material to finished products were built and assembled under one roof so it was easier to control problem points. Smith believes Apple will face a problem with this complaint.
In my opinion, if there is a problem with earbuds then Apple can manufacture a safer model and ship them free to customers. It will cost them additional money, but it is better than issuing a recall or replacing the product.
It looks like environmentalists are targeting Apple for now, but I would bet they will soon file similar complaints with other companies. I would hope they develop standard national procedures for everyone, so it can be sorted out from day one.
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