Groups ask Apple to end benzene use in production

Groups ask Apple to end benzene use in production

Some of our favorite products are created with chemicals harmful to the workers in production. Apple and Samsung, two major providers of smart phones, use a known carcinogen in their factories and 80 human rights and environmental groups from 27 countries say it’s time to stop.

The employees are exposed to benzene, and while the use is closely monitored to ensure safety, many are still growing ill after repeated exposure. Every day, thousands are exposed to short- and long-term risks of benzene exposure, including headaches, unconsciousness, vomiting, convulsions, leukemia and even death.

After a string of suicides plagued Chinese workers, people began examining the working conditions and fighting against the technology companies. Earlier this week, the conglomerate group sent a letter to Apple asking them to discontinue the poisoning of its employees.

The group believes the cost of such a change is less than $1 per device.

While Apple isn’t the largest manufacturer or the only guilty party, the group targeted the company because of its commitment to ethically and environmentally sound practices and they believe it will make the necessary changes. They hold little hope for any immediate action from Samsung.

The risks aren’t limited to those working in China. Many industries in the United States feature environments that create a greater threat of benzene exposure, including chemical plants, powerhouses and steel mills.

One of the ways to create benzene is the coke-making process where steel mill companies can capture the byproduct to sell. Employees who operate near the coke batteries, are involved in the transport or work in the facilities where the benzene is transferred can experience significant exposure to the carcinogen.

Additionally, benzene is a powerful solvent that many industrial facilities use to clean and degrease large pieces of machinery. Likewise, chemical plants may buy benzene to use in the chemicals being made to the clean equipment.

Footnotes

CDC. (2014). Facts about benzene. Emergency Preparedness and Response. [Link]

Henderson, J. (2014). Is Apple ‘poisoning’ its production line workers? Tech Day. [Link]

Williams, M. (2014). Groups ask Apple to end toxic chemical use. PC World. [Link]

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