This Tuesday, Washington, D.C.'s Green America shed light on toxic chemical exposure in Apple devices' production process, and held a conference the day after. The organization, which is backed up by NY-based China Labor Watch, cited industry insiders to reaffirm a strong statement - it will cost Apple a mere $1 per product to substitute benzene and n-hexane, two very hazardous chemicals used by workers for cleaning and polishing production materials. Multiplied by the iPhone production volume, which is well into the tens of millions, this $1 would pile up a hefty additional cost. Nevertheless, such expense is not an excuse, as continuous exposure to these substances can, and has caused leukaemia and other diseases among employees.
The campaign's official outlet is the BadApple website, where a MP3 of the conference is available, along with an on-line petition form to end poisonous chemical use. There's also a very depressing 10-minute documentary (which isn't aimed solely at Apple, by the way) about poisoned workers in Chinese factories. It tells all that needs to be known about the impact of what is, unfortunately, only one of many severe labor issues. In addition, Green America is asking Apple to organize a healthcare fund which will help workers who fall sick due to poisoning and other work-related incidents. A Frequently Asked Questions page clearly explains that the campaign isn't boycotting Apple, and contains thorough information about its intent and desired outcome.
Green America hopes that Apple customers will join the movement and send the company letters to make it replace the toxic chemicals with proposed safer alternatives. "We know from experience that once you get a certain amount of consumer pressure, the company will listen to that opinion." - said Elizabeth O'Connel, campaign director.
comes to handling chemicals and toxic substances, we require that our
suppliers around the world meet or exceed respected U.S. 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."
Although BadApple comes across as a name for a smear campaign, Green America has no ill intent. It chose to target Apple, because it believes “Apple has the power to improve working conditions throughout the electronics-manufacturing sector by influencing both its suppliers (like Foxconn, Pegatron, Quanta, Primax) and its competitors.” The company is the largest and most influential client of these contract manufacturers, and is extremely popular in the consumer space.