The Contaminated Apple

iphone2007_b.jpgA recent test conducted by the environmental organization Greenpeace International has declared that Apple’s iPhone contains hazardous chemicals that can endanger human health. Environment.

Greenpeace scientists have claimed that they found two types of hazardous substances in the iPhone that have already been eliminated by other mobile phone manufacturers.

A high level of chlorine was detected in the plastic coating of the headphone cables, along with phthalates plasticizers at a total of over 1.5% by weight, both characteristic of PVC. Although the use of PVC and phthalate esters is not currently prohibited or even regulated under RoHS, it is worth noting that none of the four phthalates found in this study are permitted for use in components of toys or childcare articles sold in Europe.

The two most abundant phthalates in the headphone cables of both the iPhone and iPod are those classified in Europe as ‘toxic to reproduction, as a result of their ability to interfere with sexual development of mammals, especially males.

Greenpeace campaigners say they decided to test the iPhone in their UK laboratory in June after Apple management publicly declared that it would address environmental concerns as it launched new products.

In May when the iPhone was launched Apple’s Steve Jobs bragged about the fine environmental quality of his company’s products. But it seems that Apple is far from leading the way for a green electronics industry as competitors, like Nokia, that already sells mobile phones free of PVC.

The laboratory tests show the iPhone contains toxic brominated compounds (indicating the presence of brominated flame retardants — so-called BFRs) and hazardous PVC plastics. The findings are detailed in the Greenpeace report entitled “Missed call: the iPhone’s Hazardous Chemicals.”

Greenpeace researchers said during the tests they also found the iPhone’s battery was “unusually glued and soldered” into the handset, which hinders battery replacement and makes separation for recycling or appropriate disposal more difficult, and therefore adds to the burden of electronic waste.

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 if they wish to sustain their popularity and reputation in the international market.

Namit Agarwal