Greenpeace clashes with Apple over iPhone's eco-unfriendliness

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Greenpeace has been bugging Apple about the iPhone since before it launched Stateside back in June, and now, just weeks before its European debut, they’ve stripped open apart to show just how environmentally unfriendly it is. So they say.

Apparently, Apple has already been influenced by Greenpeace (they attribute their “Green my Apple” campaign to Steve Jobs eco-warrior speech) but it’s not enough. It never is.

So, Greenpeace bought an iPhone and sent it (presumably by surface mail) to their labs in the UK to be dissected.

Shock, horror! The iPhone contains toxic brominated compounds (indicating the presence of brominated flame retardants (BFRs)) and hazardous PVC. A mixture of toxic phthalates was found to make up 1.5 percent of the plastic (PVC) coating of the headphone cables.

Dr. David Santillo, Senior Scientist at the Greenpeace Research Laboratories, commented, “Two of the phthalate plasticisers found at high levels in the headphone cable are classified in Europe 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.”

Apple, meanwhile, say that the iPhone complies with RoHS [Restriction of Hazardous Substances], “the world’s toughest restrictions on toxic substances in electronics,” according to a spokesperson. Given that Apple rarely comments on stories about its products and practices, this could be seen as an indication of a commitment to reduce the environmental impact of its products — at least, in front of the media.

Just to be sure, though — and as if the wrath of Greenpeace and the interesting (if imaginary) threat of activists chaining themselves to the gates of Cupertino HQ isn’t enough — The US Center for Environmental Health wants to “encourage the manufacturers [Apple] through a negotiated settlement to reduce the use of these chemicals.” In other words, it wants to sue the pants off Steve Jobs. Naturally, because we all know just how effective a legal challenge is at encouraging people and organisations to change.

If you’re worried about the possible dangers of your low-quality iPhone earbuds, my advice is not to chew them or set light to them. Then you should be fine.

As to Greenpeace, perhaps you could spend a little more time investigating other companies? Apple picking is very easy (almost easier than having a go at Microsoft these days) but it’s getting boring now.

Sources:
Greenpeace International: iPhone’s hazardous chemicals
Apple says iPhone complies with eco standards
Apple faces lawsuit over toxins in iPhone

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Andy Merrett