iPhone 4G Poisons Workers: Worth the risk?

An interesting development comes to us today regarding the much-awaited iPhone 4G which many think will be unveiled at the WWDC next month. It seems as though things happening on the other side of the world may make us think about the people who work to bring us our new devices and how it may affect them.

A story yesterday in the Taipei Times tells of a worker, apparently one of many, who has become ill after being poisoned by the chemical n-hexane, which they say was used to clean Apple components such as the iPhone touchscreen. The article goes on to say that she is one of the scores of workers in the city of Suzhou, Jiangsu Province that has been affected.

One of the workers Wu Mei tells of how her health deteriorated last spring. At first she felt very weak and tired and put it down to long working hours but soon she lost all strength, and began to lose her balance. Doctors at first had difficulties diagnosing her illness in hospital, but eventually it was put down to the use of n-hexane which Wu Mei had used directly.

Other workers continued becoming ill with similar symptoms of dizziness and limb pains and after several more of them were diagnosed Wintek , a Taiwan-based electronics giant, stopped using the chemical concerned. However by then 62 workers had become ill. Apparently the chemical concerned is known for health risks but there are safe exposure limits. The factory manager in place at the time though, who has since been replaced, had not carried out a danger assessment and there was inadequate ventilation.

Many people spent months in hospital and it can take up to a year to recover from the illness. For more on this story go to the Taipei Times. Maybe in future before we buy our consumer products we should take a little more time to consider the manufacturing process behind them? We’d be interested in hearing your views on this.

  • Jake

    The Taipei Times article and your own account, claiming through innuendo that the iPhone 4G phone is being manufactured under factory conditions that poison workers is highly disingenuous. If you investigate the matter further you will discover that workers were poisoned last last year and conditions improved in August. Hence, where is your proof that production of the new iPhone 4G phone still uses n-hexane? This is not what the workers themselves are claiming and the Taipei Times article likely has its own agenda (pro-HTC?) for bashing Apple so unfairly.