Ap­ple bans chem­i­cals’ use in iPhones

Com­puter gi­ant moves to fur­ther pro­tect work­ers

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ap­ple Inc is ban­ning the use of two po­ten­tially haz­ardous chem­i­cals dur­ing the fi­nal assem­bly of iPhones and iPads as part of the com­pany’s lat­est com­mit­ment to pro­tect fac­tory work­ers who build the de­vices.

T h e de­ci­sion an­nounced on Wed­nes­day comes five months af­ter the ac­tivist groups launched a pe­ti­tion calling on Ap­ple to aban­don the use of ben­zene and n-hex­ane in the pro­duc­tion of iPhones.

A four-month in­ves­ti­ga­tion at 22 fac­to­ries found no ev­i­dence that ben­zene and n-hex­ane en­dan­gered the 500,000 peo­ple who work at the plants, ac­cord­ing to Ap­ple.

No traces of the chem­i­cals were de­tected at 18 of the fac­to­ries and the amounts found at the other four fell within ac­cept­able safety lev­els, the com­pany said.

Nev­er­the­less, Ap­ple de­cided to order its sup­pli­ers to stop us­ing ben­zene and n-hex­ane dur­ing the fi­nal assem­bly of iPhones, iPads, iPods, Macin­tosh com­put­ers and var­i­ous ac­ces­sories.

Ap­ple is also re­quir­ing all its fac­to­ries to test all sub­stances to en­sure that they do not con­tain ben­zene or n-hex­ane, even if the chem­i­cals are not listed among the in­gre­di­ents.

Ben­zene is a car­cino­gen that can cause leukemia if not han­dled prop­erly and n-hex­ane has been linked to nerve dam­age. The sub­stances are of­ten found in sol­vents used to clean ma­chin­ery and elec­tron­ics.

Ap­ple is still al­low­ing use of the two chem­i­cals dur­ing the early pro­duc­tion phases of its prod­ucts — ac­tiv­i­ties that pri­mar­ily take place at hun­dreds of other fac­to­ries be­sides the ones re­spon­si­ble for the fi­nal assem­bly of the de­vices — but it is low­er­ing the max­i­mum amount of ben­zene and n-hex­ane that can be present.

“This is do­ing ev­ery­thing we can think of to do to crack down on chem­i­cal ex­po­sures and to be re­spon­sive to con­cerns,” Lisa Jackson, Ap­ple’s vi­cepres­i­dent of en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives, said in an in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press.

“We think it’s re­ally im­por­tant that we show some lead­er­ship and re­ally look to­ward the fu­ture by try­ing to use greener chemistries.” On Green Amer­ica pe­ti­tions urg­ing Ap­ple to phase out ben­zene and n-hex­ane from

its plants

It is a good first step. I hope they will con­tinue to re­move the most danger­ous chem­i­cals to hu­man health or find ways to re­duce the ex­po­sure EL­IZ­A­BETH O’CON­NELL GREEN AMER­ICA’S CAM­PAIGN DIREC­TOR

All but four of the fi­nalassem­bly fac­to­ries af­fected by Ap­ple’s new guide­lines are op­er­ated by third-party con­trac­tors in China, where the com­pany has faced crit­i­cism for al­low­ing op­pres­sive la­bor con­di­tions that have made some work­ers ill and driven oth­ers to sui­cide. The com­pany main­tains that its pe­ri­odic au­dits of the over­seas fac­to­ries are weed­ing out abu­sive la­bor prac­tices.

The other fac­to­ries cov­ered by the fi­nal-assem­bly ban on ben­zene and n-hex­ane are in Brazil, Ire­land, Texas and Cal­i­for­nia.

“It is a good first step,” said El­iz­a­beth O’Con­nell, Green Amer­ica’s cam­paign direc­tor Amer­ica. “I hope they will con­tinue to re­move the most danger­ous chem­i­cals to hu­man health or find ways to re­duce the ex­po­sure.”

Green Amer­ica’s pe­ti­tion drive col­lected nearly 23,000 sig­na­tures urg­ing Ap­ple to phase out ben­zene and n-hex­ane.

Nei­ther chem­i­cal is unique to Ap­ple’s man­u­fac­tur­ing process. They are also used in the pro­duc­tion of elec­tronic prod­ucts sold by other tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies that have faced sim­i­lar crit­i­cism.

Ap­ple’s new rules gov­ern­ing ben­zene and n-hex­ane hope­fully will pres­sure other de­vice mak­ers to adopt sim­i­lar poli­cies, said Gary Cook, se­nior in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy an­a­lyst for en­vi­ron­men­tal rights group Greenpeace.

“This move shows Ap­ple can use its mar­ket mus­cle and in­flu­ence to iden­tify cleaner prac­tices,” Cook said.

Even so, Ap­ple’s fac­to­ries still rely on a long list of tox­ins that could harm peo­ple and the en­vi­ron­ment, Cook said.

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