Poisoned Chinese Workers Ask Apple For Help

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Just as Wintek has scored the contract to make touchscreens for the white iPhone 5, Chinese workers at the Taiwanese company’s Suzhou plant have urged Apple to look into the slate of chemical poisonings at the plant which they said could still hurt their health.

The issue is hexyl hydride, a chemical used by Wintek between May 2008 and August 2009 instead of alcohol to speed up production of Apple touchscreens. In an open letter published in a local Chinese newspaper, workers referred to hexyl hydride as “a killer that strikes invisibly.”

Symptoms of hexyl hydride poisoning include sudden numbness in hands, swelling and pain in the feet, tiredness and faintness. Long-term exposure can lead to permanent nerve and eye damage. 137 Wintek workers had been hospitalized because of the poisonings.

Apple’s most recent supplier report mentions the poisonings, and also notes that the use of hexyl hydride has since stopped at Wintek’s facilities, but workers are now arguing that Wintek has not given enough compensation to affected workers, had tried to force out workers who had accepted compensation and had refused to offer assurance that the medical treatment of workers who suffered from hexyl hydride inflicted health relapses that their medical bills would be covered.

The workers are asking for Apple to apologize and intervene with Wintek management on their behalf. Apple declined to comment on the letter, and instead suggested interested parties reference their supplier report to see what they were doing to make sure their contract workers’ health was protected.