Apple Inc. (AAPL) is urged by labor groups to stop using harmful chemicals

Posted Mar 14, 2014

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is being urged by labor and environmental groups to stop using harmful chemicals at factories in China. The groups are also urging Samsung, Dell, and HP to make changes as well. China Labor Watch and Green America said that Apple should stop using harmful chemicals like the solvents n-hexane and benzene in manufacturing of devices. The groups are not asking for a boycott of the products and reports that suggest this are misinterpreting.

On Wednesday, the groups called on Apple to stop “needlessly exposing workers in Chinese manufacturing facilities to toxic chemicals now causing severe illnesses.” The groups say that switching to alternatives will cost a small amount of money more.

“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 leukemia [sic] providing its workers with a legal standard of welfare,” stated Kevin Slaten program coordinator at the China Labor Watch in an interview with The Guardian.

N-hexane is used for cleaning electronic displays, including the Apple iPhone. This chemical is used rather than conventional solvents like isopropanol because it evaporates three times faster. Exposure to this chemical can cause nerve damage and paralysis though. N-hexane has been the cause of several poisoning issues at iPhone manufacturing plants in China. Benzene is used for cleaning and coating electronic components at the factor, but it is a carcinogen that can cause reproductive abnormalities and leukemia.

Apple?s Supplier Responsibility Report does not mention these chemicals specifically, but says that suppliers “shall identify, evaluate, and control worker exposure to hazardous chemical, biological, and physical agents.?

Apple said that suppliers need to eliminate chemical hazards where possible. The suppliers are required to meet or exceed safety standards for handling hazardous chemicals that are set by US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha).

The reason why Apple was selected because the company gave itself a large amount of responsibility and it has the potential to drive changes because of its manufacturing size in China.

The Guardian also posted a response that Apple made to its article:
“Over the past decade, Apple has led the industry in removing toxics like lead and mercury, brominated flame retardants and PVC from our products, which is good for workers as well as consumers. When it comes to handling chemicals and toxic substances, we require that our suppliers around the world meet or exceed respected US safety standards such as Osha, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. Last year, we conducted nearly 200 factory inspections which focused on hazardous chemicals, to make sure those facilities meet our strict standards. We also provide suppliers with training in hazardous chemical management, industrial hygiene and personal protection equipment as part of the Apple Supplier EHS Academy in Suzhou, China.”

[Source: The Guardian]