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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.