Apple has long been at the center of controversy regarding the treatment and working conditions of their factory workers. Last week, they finally decided to stop using two toxic chemicals in their manufacturing processes. How kind of them.
No More Benzene or N-Hexane for You, Underpaid Worker
On 14 August, Apple announced that it would no longer use benzene and n-hexane in its manufacturing facilities around the world. A company-wide investigation of more than 20 of its final assembly plants, employing roughly half a million people, reportedly found no widespread use of the chemicals. Regardless, the tech giant will henceforth use alternate substances.
Said report, titled “Apple’s Commitment to Safe Working Conditions in Our Supply Chain,” states, “While we didn’t find any evidence of workers being put at risk […] we concluded that safer alternatives to these chemicals exist. So we have updated our RSS [Regulated Substances Specification] to expressly prohibit the use of benzene or n-hexane […] in the final assembly process.”
Take Your Time, It’s Just Leukemia & Nerve Damage
Both benzene and n-hexane are common ingredients in cleaning products and degreasers, including household cleaners. While these products contain very low concentrations of the offending substances, high exposure rates, such as those found in a manufacturing facility, can lead to severe health concerns.
Benzene is a carcinogen and has been associated with leukemia. N-hexane can lead to nerve damage. This comes from the US Center for Disease Control, who may know a thing or two about these matters. In the US, acceptable worker exposure to benzene is capped at 0.5 parts per million; for n-hexane, its 28 ppm.
Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of environmental initiatives, said in a statement that the company has “received some questions” about the chemicals’ use in Apple plants. Because no one from Corporate ‘Merica can be trusted any farther than they can be thrown, it’s likely that this increasing pressure from environmental and worker safety activists is what lead the company to ban the chemicals, rather than Apple’s supposed internal safety initiative.