Apple iPhone contains hazardous substances, Greenpeace claims
According to the environmental group, tests run in the United Kingdom have revealed the iPhone contains two types of hazardous substances -- toxic brominated compounds, indicating the presence of brominated flame retardants (BFR), and hazardous polyvinyl chloride (PVC) -- which have already been eliminated by other mobile phone makers.
Greenpeace claimed in a statement made on its Web site Monday that an independent scientific laboratory tested 18 internal and external components of the iPhone and confirmed the presence of brominated compounds in half of the samples, including in the phone's antenna, in which compounds made up 10 percent of the total weight of the flexible circuit board. A mixture of toxic phthalates was found to make up 1.5 percent of the PVC coating of the headphone cables, the group said. Greenpeace further launched a YouTube video showing the disassembly of an iPhone to prove its point.
According to the group, two of the phthalate plasticizers found at high levels in the headphone cable are classified in Europe as “toxic to reproduction, category 2” because of their 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,” Dr. David Santillo, senior scientist at the Greenpeace Research Laboratories, said in the statement. "Apple should eliminate the use of these chemicals from its products range."
The Greenpeace disassembling also charges that the iPhone's battery is glued and soldered in to the handset, hindering battery replacement and separation for electronic waste recycling or appropriate disposal.
Greenpeace sour on Apple
This is not first time Apple has been targeted by Greenpeace. The consumer electronics maker has been labeled as sub par in Greenpeace’s “Guide to Greener Electronics” more than once and has been noted as an exception to the overall green movement within the electronics supply chain. Further, the organization has protested outside Apple stores during MacWorld shows and started a grassroots campaign called “Green my Apple” to encourage consumer disapproval of the company’s environmental practices.
"Steve Jobs has missed the call on making the iPhone his first step towards greening Apple's products," Zeina Alhajj, Greenpeace International toxics campaigner, said in the statement. "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."
According to Greenpeace, Nokia, which has been applauded by the group before, is completely PVC free. Mobile phone makers Motorola and Sony Ericsson were also credited by Greenpeace as having products on the market with BFR free components. The group also noted that while Nokia and Sony Ericsson have a global take-back policy for their phones, Apple does not have a global free take-back policy.
“With next month's European launch of the iPhone, Apple should sell a version which is at least as green as the offerings from Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola,” Greenpeace stated. “Only then can loyal fans of Steve Jobs believe that his promises of a greener Apple will bear any fruit. Right now Steve appears to have any green product news 'on hold.’”
Apple could not be reached for comment on Greenpeace’s claims, however, Jobs and the company recently issued a statement claiming that it is “ahead of, or will soon be ahead of, most of its competitors” when it comes to removing toxic materials from its new products. In that statement, which Jobs titled “A Greener Apple,” the well-known CEO noted the hazardous materials at issue and said, “Apple plans to completely eliminate the use of PVC and BFRs in its products by the end of 2008.”
Of note, the company also includes Al Gore, former United States Vice President and recent Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work on the “climate crisis,” on its board. Gore spoke to the engineering community at April Embedded Systems Conference, encouraging their involvement in finding environmentally sensible solutions.
Legal action initiated
At least one lawsuit has been spurred by Greenpeace’s allegations. The Oakland, Calif.-based Center for Environmental Health (CEH) Monday announced that, based on the data, it is initiating legal action against Apple.
CEH noted that the levels of phthalates in the iPhone are a violation of California law, and that under the state's Proposition 65 law, products that can expose consumers to phthalates or other chemicals that are reproductive toxins or carcinogens must carry a warning label.
"There is no reason to have these potentially hazardous chemicals in iPhones" said Michael Green, executive director of CEH, in a statement. "We expect Apple to reformulate their products to make them safer from cradle to grave, so they don't pose a threat to consumers, workers or the environment."
Greenpeace’s full report, "Missed call: the iPhone's hazardous chemicals," is available here .