You’re toxic, says Greenpeace to Apple

18 Oct 2007

Britney Spears’ Toxic wouldn’t be most people’s tune of choice for the iconic iPhone but it currently fits since Greenpeace has decided to take Apple to court alleging it uses toxic materials in the manufacture of the device.

Greenpeace is suing Apple over hazardous chemicals and materials allegedly found in its latest product, the iPhone.

After conducting independent tests on 18 internal and external iPhone components, Greenpeace scientists say they have confirmed the presence of toxic brominates compounds in the phone’s antenna.

The tests also indicate a mixture of toxic phthalates was found on the plastic coating of the headphone cables, and the device’s battery is glued and soldered in the handset.

The scientists say this practice, gluing and soldering, makes it harder to replace the battery and more difficult to separate the iPhone’s components for recycling purposes.

Environmentalists report that without undergoing the necessary steps, recycling these electrical gadgets is jeopardizing both the environment and the health of those responsible for properly disposing of these products.

In May 2007, Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs announced his company planned to become greener and pledged to eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals from its products. The iPhone is due for release in Europe this November.

Apple launched the iPhone into the US market in June 2007. The discovery of hazardous chemicals suggests that Apple is failing to make early progress, even in entirely new product lines, towards achieving its commitment to phase-out all uses of brominated compounds and PVC by the end of 2008.

“Steve Jobs has missed the call on making the iPhone his first step towards greening Apple’s products” said Zeina Alhajj, Greenpeace International toxics campaigner. “It seems that Apple is far from leading the way for a green electronics industry as competitors like Nokia already sell mobile phones free of PVC.”

Dr David Santillo, senior scientist at the Greenpeace Research Laboratories, co-ordinated the project and deconstructed the iPhone for analysis.

He said: “Two of the phthalate plasticisers found at high levels in the headphone cable are classified as “toxic to reproduction, category 2″ because of their long-recognised ability to interfere with sexual development in mammals. While they are not prohibited in mobile phones, these phthalates are banned from use in all toys or childcare articles sold in Europe. Apple should eliminate the use of these chemicals from its products range.”

During its analysis, Greenpeace also found that the iPhone’s battery was, unusually, glued and soldered in to the handset. This hinders battery replacement and makes separation for recycling, or appropriate disposal, more difficult, and therefore adds to the burden of electronic waste.

“Apple needs to re-invent its iPhone…in green,” continued Alhajj. “The company needs to design out all hazardous substances and materials from its products so that a real solution is found for the growing mountain of e-waste.

“Whether the iPhone model due for European release in November 2007 also relies on brominated internal components and PVC is a question Steve Jobs needs to answer.”

By John Kennedy