Greenpeace found the iPhone's battery to be soldered to the wires attached to the circuit board, already a well known fact in tech circles.  (Source: Greenpeace)
Apple faces another big lawsuit

As if the two class action suits for "iBricking," iFires and a constant stream of negative publicity about its war against unlockers weren't bad enough for Cupertino-based Apple Inc., now the firm has to contend with a new shark, which has jumped in the water looking to take a bite out of the firm.

Apple's problems started with environmental protection advocate Greenpeace issuing a report (PDF) finding the iPhone not up to snuff with its standards of responsible technology.

The irony is that the iPhone showed no traces of cadmium or mercury, typical causes for violation.  While the iPhone appears to have met EU and U.S. environmental standards, it did not meet those of Greenpeace.  Greenpeace found trace amounts of lead and other carcinogenic compounds in the device. 

Lead is a carcinogen and can cause brain damage.  Despite a large amount of medical evidence, only one state, California, recognize lead based solders to be carcinogenic.

Greenpeace also was not happy with the glued and soldered battery which made disposal difficult to impossible.  They felt this would hurt recycling efforts for the phone's batteries.  Many supermarkets and communities across the U.S. have phone collection bins which they use to collect and recycle the materials in used phone batteries.

Also, the iPhone was found to contain bromine additives, which could be hazardous if burned or exposed to water. Its polyvinyl chloride PVC plastic contains large amounts of chlorine, which is thought to be possibly carcinogenic and harmful to health if ingested.  The PVC plastic used is banned for use in children's toys in Europe, but is widely used in the U.S.

Greenpeace's findings were based on experimental deconstruction and chemical testing at its laboratory facilities in Exeter, U.K.

"Apple is not making early progress toward its 2008 commitment to phase out all uses of these materials, even in entirely new product lines.  If Apple really wants to reinvent the phone, it needs to design out all hazardous substances and materials from its handsets and peripherals," said Greenpeace in a statement.

Following the announcement, Steve Jobs poked fun at the report, in a note on Apple's website stating:
"I hope you are as delighted as I was when I first learned how far along Apple actually is in removing toxic chemicals from its products and recycling its older products."

He might not be laughing anymore.  Apple's possible environmental hazards have resulted in a new lawsuit by an environmental and consumer protection group, the Center for Environmental Health (CEHCA).

The suit specifically points to the use phthalates, toxic chlorine compounds, in the PVC on the iPhone and iPod's earbuds.  The compound is banned for use in children's toys in San Fransisco and Europe.  These compounds are level 2 toxins with respect to reproduction.  They can damage and interference in the sexual development of mammals, which can manifest in a broad array of physiological problems.

The Greenpeace report acknowledges that, "Although it is unclear whether headphones from an iPod or iPhone could ever be classified as components of toys or childcare articles, it is clear that the presence of high levels of phthalates in such materials could contribute to overall levels of exposure to such chemicals for the user, including children."

The Center for Environmental Health executive director Michael Green is championing the suit and blasted Apple. "There is no reason to have these potentially hazardous chemicals in iPhones.  We expect Apple to reformulate their products to make them safer from cradle to grave, so they don't pose a threat to consumers, workers or the environment.  In general what we try to do is encourage the manufacturers through a negotiated settlement to reduce the use of these chemicals.  That would be our goal with Apple."

The CEHCA suit intends to force Apple to put toxic hazard warning labels on its iPods and iPhones.  California's Proposition 65 requires products that can expose customers to reproductive toxins or carcinogens to contain warning labels.  There are exemptions if federal law overrides the state's authority, or if the manufacturer can present conclusive evidence that lifetime exposure to the product is not harmful.

The CEHCA hopes the suit will not go to court, but it is not ruling out the possibility.  What it really hopes for is for Apple to agree to negotiate to eliminate or reduce the use of PVC in its iPod lines and in the iPhone.  The Center has given Apple 60 days of legal notice, as per California state laws

Apple has not yet released a statement on the CEHCA lawsuit, but has countered the Greenpeace report by insisting it meets the standards imposed by stringent U.S. and European environmental laws and is constantly trying to improve its environmental performance.

Ironically Apple has tried to paint itself to be an environmental leader, including a large amount of press coverage on its site about Al Gore's recent Nobel Peace Prize, also covered extensively here at DailyTech.

Regardless of the outcome, which may be months away, the report and the ensuing suit mark more bad publicity for the new iPod lines and the iPhone.

"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs
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