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Apple Is Banning Two Hazardous Chemicals From iPhone Production

Illustration for article titled Apple Is Banning Two Hazardous Chemicals From iPhone Production

You can buy your pretty new iPhone 6 with somewhat of a clearer conscience this fall. Apple announced today that they're eliminating two known toxins—benzene and n-hexane—from the production of iPhone and iPads.

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Activists groups have been pressuring Apple to remove the toxins for months, launching a petition that claims that over 1.5 million workers in China are exposed to the chemicals, which can cause leukemia, nerve damage, liver and kidney failure. In an independent investigation Apple said that they found no evidence the chemicals have harmed workers, even though there have been reports that workers have been sickened and at least one worker has died from exposure to n-hexane.

There's a small catch: Apple will still allow the chemicals to be used at earlier points in the production process (benzene and n-hexane are used for the cleaning and polishing of things like electronic components and touch screens). However, Apple will require testing of those environments to make sure the levels are lower than they are now.

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"This is doing everything we can think of to do to crack down on chemical exposures and to be responsive to concerns," Lisa Jackson, Apple's vice president of environmental initiatives, told the AP. "We think it's really important that we show some leadership and really look toward the future by trying to use greener chemistries."

Hopefully these chemicals will join the list of recently phased-out toxins like arsenic, lead, and phthalates which Apple has proudly eliminated from their factories across the board. And here's also to hoping that this move towards safer manufacturing is paving the way for Apple to make more of their products in the U.S. [AP]

Top image: Apple

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DISCUSSION

PhD chemist here. The generation of chemists before mine used to stay cool in hot labs by working shirtless and dipping rags in benzene and draping them across their backs. The evaporating benzene cooled them off. We no longer do this because benzene is a known carcinogen and we have AC. Also they make us wear shirts.

Point is, benzene isn't super toxic. The n-hexanes much less so. Any undergrad chemist is exposed to plenty of this stuff. I have had both on my skin and haven't given it a second thought. Your body efficiently detoxifies both in small amounts. I could map out the biochemical pathways for those interested.

Workplace regulations are important generally and this is good news, but once again this is a sensationalizing headline that makes things sound worse than they are. On the scale of horrible things happening in manufacturing, this isn't even a 1 on a 100 point scale. They only posted this because it is about Apple. Also because people are scared of chemicals.