The Green America nonprofit has announced that it is pleased with Apple’s August 13 announcement that it is taking first steps to protect the workers who make their products from dangerous chemical exposures. Apple announced that it is banning the use of benzene and n-hexane in the final assembly of its products.
However Green America continues urging Apple to go further to ensure the safety of all workers in its supply chain, noting that beyond benzene and n-hexane, there are thousands of chemicals used in the manufacturing of electronics — some which are largely untested — and many chemicals used by Apple suppliers remain undisclosed.
The environmental watchdog says Apple first needs to disclose all of the chemicals used in the manufacturing processes of its products, not just those with restrictions. Additionally, while Green America applauds Apple for investigating all its final assembly plants in China, the nonprofit is urging Apple to look deeper into its supply chain, to the second and third tier suppliers, where chemical usage and safety procedures are less controlled, noting that Apple has 349 supplier facilities in China with an estimated 1.5 million workers, but has investigated just 22 of these facilities (6.3%) which employ a third of the workers who work on Apple’s products. They note that this sample does not represent a cross-section of all of Apple’s suppliers in China, and that Apple is still allowing benzene and n-hexane, and many other potentially hazardous chemicals, to be used in its second and third tier suppliers.
Elizabeth O’Connell, campaigns director at Green America, said: “This announcement and the preceding investigation shows that Apple listens to its customers. However, Apple needs to go further to create a safe environment at all factories in their supply chain for the health and safety of all 1.5 million workers.”
Green America will continue to call for Apple to identify and disclose all chemicals used in all supplier factories. Chemicals deemed hazardous to human health must be replaced with safer alternatives in all factories. In situations where the danger of a chemical is unknown, Apple must require proper testing. Apple must institute and enforce appropriate exposure monitoring, medical monitoring, and effective training and management systems to ensure worker health and safety, and ensure that any workers harmed in the manufacture of its products receive appropriate medical care.
In its statement, Apple said: “We’ll invest in research on new materials and technologies. We’ll assemble a new advisory board composed of leaders in safer chemicals and pollution prevention to advance our efforts to minimize or eliminate toxins from our products and supply chain. And we’ll listen ó convening roundtables with stakeholders to seek out the best science, data, and solutions.”
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