Apple, Samsung Called on to Stop Use of Deadly Chemicals in Factories
by Michelle Maisto
Smartphones need to ditch carcinogens. Could being the change-maker be the best marketing for companies desperate for distinction?
Consumer health and fitness features are expected to be a new area of focus for Samsung and Apple, as each works to find a foothold it can use to advance itself past the other. But it's the health of the workers producing the components for these rivals' devices that's begun to gain some attention.
Samsung recently shuffled around six of the seven executives in its Future Strategies office, the Korea Times reported April 30, citing an executive who said the moves would help Samsung better address key issues. These include, said the report, securing parts suppliers for the Galaxy S5 and addressing the "stalled negotiations with leukemia-stricken former employees".
According to multiple reports, workers at Samsung and Apple factories are coming down with aggressive forms of leukemia, due to chemicals they're exposed to on the job.
Bloomberg Business, in an April 10 report, told the story of two young women who got jobs in a Samsung factory in South Korea "dipping computer chips into the same vat of chemicals". Neither had any family history of the illness; both died of acute myeloid leukemia. Instead of making gestures of compensation to the families, said the report, Samsung was "hostile" and denied any connection between the girls' illnesses and their work.
In a new documentary, "Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics", filmmakers Heather White and Lynn Zhang tell the stories of young workers in China's electronics factories who have "occupational leukemia" caused by benzene poisoning. They make smartphones for a number of companies.
"Benzene is a category 1 carcinogen that is banned in most Western countries for industrial use", says the film. But in China, where more than 50 percent of the world's smartphones are made, it's legal.