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There is more back and forth, as many groups are critical at Greenpeace's iPhone analysis.

Last week it was covered by DailyTech that Greenpeace had taken a swing at Apple, citing them for what they felt was a number of environmental violations in the iPhone's design.

The report and Greenpeace's vocal support of it is drawing criticism from some, though Apple is strangely silent on the issue, simply saying that it is working to reduce the use of certain chemicals and is constantly trying to stay environment friendly.

It appears the key gripe back and forth between Greenpeace and its detractors seems not to be the body of the report, but a specific point in it.

The argument centers on the use of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in the phone.  BFRs are thought to be capable of reacting, either under highly acidic conditions such as the human stomach via ingestion or under high heat if scorched (such as in an iFire).  Also, exposing them to water is suspected of leading to possible water supply contamination.

Unfortunately, BFRs provide the best fire-retardant protection currently available.  As many of the plastics in consumer electronics are flammable, this produces a tricky situation.  Replacing these plastics can be economically costly.

The bromine chemical industry released a new report blasting Greenpeace's claims about BFRs.  The report adopts a "you can't prove we did it and so what if we did" stance in both trying to attack Greenpeace's findings and attack their statements about BFRs, even if their findings were accurate.

The report criticizes Greenpeace's use of XRF (X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometry) which can detect elements on the surface, but cannot detect molecules or specific concentrations of elements, which could yield empirical molecular composition.  Basically, the report is trying to say that Greenpeace could not tell the difference between a BFR and another brominated compound with its lab equipment (note that even if this is true, most halogen compounds used in industry are mildly carcinogenic at least, although, as previously mentioned you might have to do something like swallow them to absorb them into your body).

The industry report also points out the economic problems which it feels mandates the use of BFRs and points out that European Union regulations still allow BFRs.

Greenpeace has issued a response on tech blog Gizmodo, in which it counters these arguments.

It points out that the report is coming from an industry analyst who stands to lose if BFRs are eliminated.

Greenpeace points out that it used gas chromatography/mass spectrometry on the compounds as well, to try to better zero in on the chemical form of the bromine containing compounds.  It points out that the polymeric form of BFRs makes it difficult, and perhaps impossible to precisely determine the compound's identity, using current testing methods.

Interestingly, Greenpeace acknowledges to some extent the economic dilemma involved with eliminating the BFRs.

The really interesting bit, though, comes not in Greenpeace's official rebuttal, but in a letter typed by one of their spokespeople who sent it out.

The letter links to a web blog with Greenpeace's response.

More interestingly, is Greenpeace's acknowledgement that iPhone campaign is making headlines, though it states that it is not concerned with that.  "While it might not make as many headlines as the iPhone it doesn't mean that we are not focusing on all manufacturers," said Greenpeace in a statement.

Whether Greenpeace is unfairly targeting the iPhone is unclear, but it is clear that it has an understanding that its attacks will generate publicity. 

Whether its intentions are altruistic or malicious is open for debate.  The tricky part about this issue is that you are dealing with two biased parties--industry analysts and environmental activists Greenpeace.  Equally tricky is the issue of the chemicals themselves.  Many substances used in modern materials are toxic to some extent, but often they are economically viable and have unique beneficial characteristics. 

While some would have you believe the picture is black or white, it is largely gray, and society must examine each instance individual and try to make an objective decision, weighing the benefits and risks.  That's what would be logical at least.




"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer
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