It seems as though Chinese electronics
manufacturing contractors are having a few issues lately with
poisoning their workers. In April, DailyTech reported on a
case involving Samsung
workers developing leukemia while working in semiconductor
Today, we're learning that iPhone
contractor Wintek is being sued by 44 workers in China over reported
poisoning. The workers claim that they were poisoned by n-hexane, a
chemical used to clean the LCD screens of Apple's popular iPhone.
report by Barron's claims that n-hexane is used because it
dries faster than alcohol and leaves fewer streaks on the LCD
screens. It is alleged that 62 workers have been hospitalized since
the summer of 2009 due to exposure to the chemical.
N-hexane can be extremely hazardous to
humans. The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration
(OSHA) notes that, "n-Hexane is a narcotic agent; an irritant to
the eyes, upper respiratory tract, and skin; and a neurotoxin.
Exposure of humans to 5,000 ppm n-hexane for 10 minutes causes marked
vertigo; exposure to 1,500 ppm results in headache and slight
When it comes to long-term exposure,
exposure to n-hexane may cause disturbances in sensation, muscle
weakness, and distal symmetric pain in the legs. Clinical changes
include muscle atrophy, decreased muscle strength, footdrop,
numbness, prickling, and a tingling sensation in the arms and legs.
Neurological investigations reveal decreased motor nerve conduction,
neurogenic damage and swelling of peripheral nerves with thinning of
the myelin sheath. These symptoms may get worse for 2 to 3 months
after cessation of exposure. Changes in vision may also be a symptom
of chronic exposure to n-hexane
It's likely that the Wintek workers had
long-term exposure to the chemicals given the often long work days at
many Chinese factories and the fact the dozens of workers' symptoms
were severe enough to require hospitalization.
“Lawsuits of any kind are uncommon in
China, where disputes are usually addressed quietly behind closed
doors,” reports Stratfor. “Much more common is labor abuse, and
given the rising power of workers.”
We have reached out to Apple for a
comment on the story, and will update the story if we get a response.