Cleaning iPhone screens, 62 Chinese workers poisoned

| May 11th, 2010

From Hong Kong Wen Wei Po:

iphone_ultra_4g_concept

American multinational corporation Apple is going to launch iPhone 4G, Apple fans around the world eagerly await. But behind the fanaticism, some people paid for it with their health. In Jiangsu Province, China, during the manufacture of the iPhone touch-screen, at least 62 Chinese workers were poisoned and hospitalized due to use of toxic chemical n-Hexane for cleaning of the screens. Many of them have to be hospitalized for months.

A female worker who remained in hospital said she worked for a Taiwan-invested factory Wintek. Her health suddenly deteriorated last spring, hand numbness, having trouble balancing while walking, she was hospitalized in the summer. Other workers in the same dorm room also had the similar symptoms, headache, dizziness, pain in hands and feet etc.

Damage to peripheral nerves can cause paralysis

Until last August, when the hospital confirmed that these workers were poisoned by direct use of n-hexane, the factory then stopped using n-hexane. Experts pointed out that long-term exposure to n-hexane can seriously damage peripheral nervous system, and extend to the spinal cord, causing muscle atrophy and even paralysis.

It is reported that the factory manager decided to use n-hexane over alcohol because n-hexane dry faster, and he made workers directly using n-hexane in inadequately ventilated places. The factory has already dismissed him, and paid the medical expenses of the workers. It was reported that 44 workers already hired lawyers to make claims against the factory.

Although Apple is not responsible for the incident, some Hong Kong labor organizations thinks that Apple products are not cheap, company should spend a little more money to ensure a safe working environment for the workers.

9 Comments | Leave a comment | Comment feed

  1. Sara says:

    omg ,bad employer

  2. b-real says:

    What do you expect when you outsource. Safety becomes lax and people get hurt.

  3. Wang Er says:

    Though these ugly things are not happening inside Apple but the company definitely has something seriously wrong in its cooperative model. Employees jumped out of window, got poisoned by n-hexane. I know safety code is lax in China but what’s the last time you hear so many deadly incidents happened to factories related to one single electronics company? The government should put some pressure on Apple and seriously I have less sympathy if Apple became Toyota the second in China. Stop outsourcing and go back to poison your own people if you dare. This kind of company and its products are not welcome to China.

  4. John says:

    To hell with Apple.

  5. Craig says:

    Just looking at that image at the top… fake right? Says “iPhone OS 2.7”, which is obviously not right… should be 4.0.

    This story confirms what we already knew… that it isn’t enough to get a factory in China to sign up to agreements promising workers’ rights and safety mechanisms; you need to spend that extra bit of money on proper supervision. Someone directly employed by Apple who’s at that factory every single day making damn sure that the manager isn’t poisoning people.

  6. Ruud says:

    Apple bashing?

    So whenever there is a famous brand involved the direct responsible people are no longer responsible for their actions?

    Such lame thinking

    Let’s put a man (or woman) to oversee every step of the process up to digging up the sand for the silicum for the chip. Sure.

  7. Craig says:

    Why not? Is Apple short of cash?

    We all know that Chinese factories will do the bare minimum in terms of welfare, and that’s one of the things you need to be aware of when you contract a firm here to do your manufacturing. Your advantage is cost – and it’s a significant one – but your disadvantage is that shit like this happens. What’s your solution then? No business in China?

    As for Apple bashing, I’m a iPhone developer… and I think they’re awesome. Ethics could use some work though: see Flash/Apple dispute, ever-tighter controls over development for iPhone OS, some questions over free speech in the App Store etc. etc. – and now this.

  8. HaiXing says:

    I don’t know why people are blaming Apple. Apple only contracted these people out after considering contracts, fees and everything — being such a big company who’ll definitely avoid publicity issues, I doubt they’ll choose factories that come across as being shady. However they have no control to the factories’ actual practices, and can only stop working with factories once incidents got exposed.

    One thing remains true: a lot of Chinese factories cut corners, and while promising one thing, probably do something else while actually manufacturing. We all know that there are plenty of shipments of manufactured products from China which are denied by their U.S. partners because they’re not up to par.

    What we need are Chinese factory owners who behave ethically and law enforcement agencies who actually aren’t corrupted.

  9. This is so very serious and irresponsible of the factory. And for what reason?! the mere fact that it dries faster is really incredible for me to read.
    I thought work environment was gradually increasing for workers in China. Reading this makes me worried.

    Daniel
    -CFS

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