Workers on Apple line poisoned by chemicals

A Chinese worker who has spent months in hospital after she was poisoned by an Apple business partner, has called for westerners to look behind the shiny exterior of the gizmos.

Bai Bing was one of scores of young workers in the city of Suzhou who were poisoned by the chemical n-hexane, which was used to clean Apple components including iPhone touch screens.

She told the Sydney Morning Herald that people should know what Chinese workers have to do to create Apple gear and at what cost.

She initially thought she was simply tired from the long working hours at Wintek, a Taiwan-owned electronics giant. She was weaker and noticed she could not walk as fast.

“Then it became more and more serious. I found it very hard to go upstairs and if I squatted down I didn’t have the strength to get up. Later my hands became numb and I lost my balance – I would fall over if someone touched me.”

She was using n-hexane directly, she was one of the first and worst-affected. But more and more workers from the same room were suffering headaches, dizziness and weakness, and pain in their limbs.

In August, Wintek stopped using the chemical. But thanks to the previous months of exposure, at least 62 workers needed medical care. Many spent months in hospital.

Prolonged over-exposure to n-hexane can cause extensive damage to the peripheral nervous system and ultimately the spinal cord, leading to muscular weakness and atrophy and even paralysis.

Winteck knew the chemical’s potential risks and safe exposure limits. However they decided to switch to the chemical because it from alcohol because it dried more quickly. However, the outfit did not assess the dangers and it was used without proper ventilation, the Sydney Morning Herald alleged.

Three of the affected Wintek employees said they were working for Apple cleaning iPhone touch screens.

Apparently only those cleaning Apple gear were affected because Jobs Mob had insisted that the production line was isolated.

Wintek said it had replaced the factory’s general manager. It now notifies workers whose jobs may involve risk in advance, has tightened procedures for the introduction of new chemicals, and carries out medical checks. It has paid medical fees for those affected and says it will pay compensation according to the law.

Apple says it has a strict code of conduct, which sets strict requirements for working and environmental practices.

However the fact that Apple is making its products in China with partners who are terrified of losing such a large customer and working to tight margins often creates such situations.

Enforcement of Apple’s climate of secrecy has resulted in staff and reporters being beaten up by security staff at Apple plants. Workers lives are so tough that several have topped themselves.

Strangely, while similar stories were reported against the trainer maker Nike and resulted in customer boycotts, no one has considered similar action against Apple.

We guess it is because your average Apple fanboy does not care if his shiny gadget comes soaked with Chinese blood, so long as he has the chance of buying it.