Industrial solvents known to cause cancer are used in the manufacture of Apple products and other electronics consumers have come to depend on, and adequate protection for the millions of workers who make them is rare.
Roughly half of the mobile phones in production are made in China. According to the Chinese government’s own statistics, Andrew Korfhage writes at Foreign Policy In Focus, one worker is poisoned by toxic chemicals every five hours. The chief culprit seems to be benzene, a known carcinogen that is banned for industrial use in many countries.
The International Chemical Secretariat, a non-profit organization based in Sweden, provides companies with substitutions for toxic chemicals on its “Substitute It Now” list. The list details 626 chemicals harmful to human health and provides alternatives, such as cyclohexane and heptane, safer solvents similar to benzene.
Toxicology experts familiar with Chinese factory procedures have estimated that the smartphone companies could replace benzene with safer solvents at a cost of around $1 per phone. With companies like Apple raking in profits of $37 billion in 2013, electronics manufacturers can afford to take such steps to protect workers’ lives.
“We want brands to take responsibility for working conditions at their supplier factories,” says Pauline Overeem, Network Coordinator for GoodElectronics, an international non-profit organization working to clean up the electronics supply chain. “Banning benzene is a part of that.”
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—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
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