Apple Bans Toxic Chemicals From Final Assembly

After an internal investigation sparked by protests, Apple Inc. NASDAQ:AAPL has decided to further restrict the use of two poisonous chemicals that Chinese manufacturers use when assembling its products. The company said it is banning these chemicals from the last stage of the process even though it found very little small amounts of them in only four of the 22 factories it investigated. Apple also further reduced its restriction on the use of benzene in the factories of its manufacturers and suppliers.

Apple investigates toxins

Apple made the announcement in a new report posted on its website. The two chemicals it added more restrictions to—benzene and n-hexane—are in many products like paint strippers and household and industrial strength cleaners. Even though both chemicals are fairly common, the company said it decided to catalog each use of them in its final assembly factories, no matter how small, and then exclude them from the final part of the manufacturing process.

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The company said it did not find any “widespread” use of the chemicals or evidence that the health and safety of its workers is being threatened because of exposure to them. It added that use of benzene and n-hexane was “in low concentrations” in the cleaners its suppliers were using. The amount Apple found in use was in compliance with their Regulated Substances Specification rules.

Apple’s next steps

However, it determined that there are alternative products that can be used, so it updated its Regulated Substances Specification list to exclude benzene and n-hexane in cleaning agents and degreasers used in the final assembly process. Apple also tightened its restriction on benzene in other areas of the manufacturing process even more to no more than .1 ppm. The previous restriction was .5 ppm.

Apple also released a list of the chemicals it restricts at its suppliers and explained the standards to which it holds its suppliers. The list’s release is likely a response to calls from Green America and other watchdog groups that demanded more transparency in the chemicals the company restricts at its suppliers. Green America and China Labor Watch protested about the same issue outside an Apple Store earlier this year.