New campaign launched against Apple
Campaign groups China Labor Watch and Green America have launched a new campaign demanding that Apple stop using harmful chemicals including the Leukaemia causing benzene in its manufacturing.
The groups are calling for Apple to “stop needlessly exposing workers in Chinese manufacturing facilities to toxic chemicals now causing severe illnesses” arguing that using those chemicals rather than alternatives saves it a “shockingly small amount of money”.
“Together with Green America, we demand that Apple takes responsibility and removes chemicals like the solvents n-hexane and the carcinogen benzene, which is known to cause leukaemia providing its workers with a legal standard of welfare,” Kevin Slaten, programme co-ordinator at China Labor Watch, told the Guardian newspaper.
According to Samual Gibbs of the Guardian the solvent n-hexane is used to clean electronic displays. It is used rather than conventional solvents because it evaporates quickly meaning that washed screens are dry more quickly, so workers can clean more of them in a given period. However exposure can cause nerve damage and even paralysis. N-hexane has been blamed for a number of poisoning episodes at iPhone manufacturing plants in China.
Benzene is used as a cleaning and coating agent for electronic components. But it is also a carcinogen which can cause reproductive abnormalities and leukemia.
An Apple spokesperson told the Guardian that it requires all its suppliers to meet or exceed the safety standards for the handling of hazardous chemicals set by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha), which is 500 parts per million (ppm) for n-hexane in general industry or 1.8g per cubic metre, and 1ppm for benzene.
However Kevin Slaten added, “We are targeting Apple because it has given itself a tremendous amount of responsibility but actions speak louder than words, and it has the potential to drive change because of the sheer size of its manufacturing base in China,”
“When workers come to these factories they deal with harmful chemicals every day and they need to be educated about them. Unfortunately training in most factories is not adequate with some receiving as little as 10 minutes pre-job rather than the 24 hours legal requirement,” Slaten explained in his interview with the Guardian.
A short documentary from Green America reveals the hazards of the electronics industry in China profiling workers poisoned by chemicals and their struggle for compensation.
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