Apple has caught a lot of flak over the years for the conditions in overseas manufacturing plants where its iOS and Mac products are made, and the company has tried to take control as much as it can. Apple has raised wages in those factories and has tried to limit working hours (which has been less successful). Now, Apple is banning the use of two hazardous chemicals in overseas manufacturing plants.
Apple has been under pressure by China Labor Watch and Green America since March over the use of benzene and n-hexane in manufacturing, because both have been linked to health problems and there are better alternatives. Benzene is a cleaning agent, and n-hexane is a solvent. Benzene is a carcinogen known to cause leukemia, and n-hexane has been linked to nerve damage. Apple conducted an investigation and found that only four of the twenty-two manufacturers used by Apple used the chemicals and all four kept the usage to within safety limits.
Despite this, Apple has mandated that the chemicals will be banned in the final stages of iOS and Mac product assembly. Although the chemicals can still be used in the earlier parts of the process, Apple has put limits on the amount of each that can be used; and, Apple has instituted mandates that all substances, even if they aren't supposed to contain either chemical.
Green America credited the move as "a good first step", while Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environmental initiatives, said of the new policies: "This is doing everything we can think of to do to crack down on chemical exposures and to be responsive to concerns. We think it's really important that we show some leadership and really look toward the future by trying to use greener chemistries."