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article imageApple: Toxic chemicals banned in Chinese production lines

By Elke Nagy     Aug 16, 2014 in Health
Apple has banned two potentially toxic chemicals — benzene and n-hexane — from its production facilities in China. The development results from months of public pressure applied by China Labor Watch and Green America.
Green America’s Bad Apple: End Smartphone Sweatshop campaign FAQ calls for Apple to commit to "eliminating benzene and other chemicals known to be harmful to human health from its supply chain to prevent more workers from losing their lives or livelihoods because of occupational illnesses from making iPhones.”
Smartphones are produced in factories where workers lack protective gear or adequate training for the management of toxic substances. Benzene and n-hexane are used in cleaning agents. Apple has 349 supplier facilities in China and exposure to dangerous chemicals can cause cancer, leukaemia, nerve damage, liver and kidney failure, and reproductive health complications.
Apple has also recently become one of the biggest companies to provide a public list of its Regulated Substances Specification in order to further encourage its suppliers to similarly reduce or eliminate the use of hazardous substances.
In response to Apple's announcement, Green America’s Elizabeth O’Connell said, “This announcement and the preceding investigation shows that Apple listens to its customers. However, Apple needs to go further to create a safe environment at all factories in their supply chain for the health and safety of all 1.5 million workers.”
Green America will keep pressure on Apple to monitor and disclose all the chemicals used in its manufacturing process, including those chemicals used by other companies in its supply chain.
China Labor Watch has previously investigated serious work-related injuries and worker suicides in trying circumstances. The organisation related, "From January through April 2012, China Labor Watch conducted investigations at ten Apple supplier factories. Initially, we hoped to use worker surveys to measure various working conditions quantitatively. However, after successfully surveying four factories in Shenzhen, our investigators ran into opposition in Shanghai and Jiangsu province. In Shanghai, factory management found out about our surveys and contacted the local police, who then confiscated our surveys and detained our investigators for seven hours before buying them train tickets and ordering them to leave Shanghai. In Jiangsu province, police also bought our investigators train tickets and forced them to leave.
"Undeterred in the face of obstacles, we sent a second investigatory team to finish what had been started. Some of our investigators entered the factories as undercover workers while others interviewed workers around the factory premises."
Last December, China Labor Watch reported the sudden deaths of several workers at Pegatron (Shanghai) Ltd Co., a factory primarily making cell phones and tablet PCs for Apple. The organisation has since asked Apple to determine the exact cause of each worker's death via autopsy.
More about Apple, corporate social responsibity, Toxic chemicals, china labor watch, benzene and nhexane
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