After long controversy over the use of toxic chemicals, Apple has finally decided to ban the use of two toxic chemicals benzene and n-hexane in its manufacturing process.
On Thursday, Apple’s vice president of environmental initiatives Lisa Jackson announced that the company will stop using the two toxic chemicals in its computers and other electronic devices.
Jackson denied the news about the health risk for factory workers saying they did investigations at different Apple factories and “found no evidence of workers’ health being put at risk”, although many see this initiative success of the Green America environmentalist group which waged the campaign against Apple’s environmental and safety practices.
Green America appreciated Apple’s announcement and claimed it as a response to more than 23,000 comments from concerned consumers.
The Toxic Chemicals
Benzene is a sweet-smelling colorless and highly flammable liquid that is used in cleaners and is classified as “human carcinogen” US Health department.
Hexane is a constituent of gasoline. It is colorless, odorless when pure, and it evaporates easily. It is widely used as a solvent. Hexanes are absorbed through inhalation, orally, or through the skin. About 50 gm of n-hexane may be fatal to humans. Inhalation of n-hexane at 5,000 ppm for 10 minutes makes people dizzy. According to The New York Times in 2011, some workers at a plant making iPhone screens suffered from n-hexane poisoning.
The Bad Apple Campaign
Green America launched the “Bad Apple” campaign earlier, and sent an online petition to Apple CEO Tim Cook claiming workers at Apple factories in China had contracted leukemia due to exposure to benzene, suffered nerve damage from n-hexane poisoning, and developed skin conditions due to handling of acidic chemicals without protection.
The Curse of Outsourcing
Despite the decision the bigger problem is to ensure the policies are being followed in China. Foreign companies have very less control over working conditions in China. Poor Working conditions and environmental threats are not only an issue for Apple and the electronic industry but every industry is facing them.