Apple bans hazardous chemicals used to make iPhone screens nice and shiny

china-apple-factory-benzene-poison

In the past, the chemicals benzene and n-hexane, which are chemicals that make your iPhone screen so shiny, have been said to cause health problems for factory workers breathing in the fume.

But Apple has just announced that as of the iPhone 6, these complaints will be a thing of the past, as they are banning the use of the chemicals across their entire assembly line.

The announcement is the result of a four month investigation into how the chemicals impacted the health of 500,000 factory workers who assemble Apple’s iPhones and iPads. Although Cupertino says that during the course of this investigation it found no evidence that the chemicals posed any hazard, they’d rather be safe than sorry, which is why they will no longer use the chemicals across their supply chain.

Whether there is conclusive proof or not about the damage caused by being exposed to benzene and n-hexane, both substances have been linked to health problems including leukemia and nerve damage. In recent months, Apple has been under considerable pressure from activist groups such as the China Labor Watch and Green America to ban the chemicals.

Now they have. But don’t expect the iPhone 6 to be less shiny than its predecessors. The timing here is no coincidence. If Apple is banning these chemicals ahead of a major product launch, it must be because they’ve found an alternative that is just as good.

  • Garnetstar

    Apple is being disingenuous here. The American Petroleum Institute stated in 1948 that the only safe concentration of exposure to benzene is zero. It’s classed as a known human carcinogen, and has been banned for use in teaching laboratories for decades. It causes leukemia.

    n-Hexane is converted in the liver to a known neurotoxin.

    So yeah, Apple may be speaking the truth when they say they haven’t found any harm done by these chemicals yet. Because the effects are long-term, won’t show up for years, that’s why.

    BTW, both of these chemicals are in gasoline, and you are inhaling their vapors whenever you fill your tank. Get an electric car.

    • Chrome Dragon

      Exposure to benzene for five minutes at 20,000 PPM can kill you.

      OSHA believes that exposure to, on average, 1 ppm eight hours a day for your entire working life will not cause illness, and that 5 ppm can be tolerated once in a blue moon. Say, the day someone knocks over a bottle and everyone scrambles to get gas masks on, and then gets the hell out of the factory until the whole place can be aired out, washed down, and generally made safe again. The legal limit is set very cautiously, since exposure to 10 ppm is believed to be harmless.

      I’m not saying that benzene is good for you, but science has marched on since 1948.

      For the record, exposure to N-hexane has a recommended limit of 50 PPM, a legally mandated maximum exposure limit of 500 PPM, (and I’ll point out that 50 PPM is also the threshold limit value; any exposure below 50 ppm is harmless according to the best science available now) and you *really* want to avoid concentrations of 1100 PPM, for that’s the lower limit for an explosive atmosphere. Concentrations of 3000 PPM are considered immediately dangerous and potentially fatal, because at that level, dizziness and giddiness will impair your ability to get the hell out of dodge.

      SCIENCE! And, you know, Federal regulations.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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