Sustainability: Toxic iPhones Face Lawsuit

The new iPhone may have won over the tech world, but for environmentalists and consumer advocates it leaves much to be desired. A report by Greenpeace released yesterday found Apple's latest gadget houses multiple kinds of toxic chemicals in parts ranging from the antenna to the headphone cables.

One substance that is particularly troubling to environmentalists is phthalates plasticisers (a toxin that makes up 1.5 percent of the plastic coating on the iPhone's headphone cables), which are known to cause sterility and other reproductive problems in mammals. Phthalates are one characteristic of the chlorinated plastic compound polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The EU placed a ban on using phthalates in toys and other children's products because of the associated health risks.

In light of Greenpeace's findings, the Center for Environmental Health announced plans to bring a lawsuit against Apple for failure to warn consumers about the iPhone's toxic materials. Under California law, all products that use phthalates or similar hazardous chemicals must carry a warning label.

Greenpeace also found evidence of bromine in half of the iPhone's parts, suggesting the use of brominated flame retardants (BFRs), chemicals that can be harmful to the environment once an iPhone is trashed.


Greenpeace Video: Apple iPhone Tests

Although Steve Jobs asserts "Apple is ahead of, or will soon be ahead of, most of its competitors" in the environmental arena, Greenpeace notes the company is far behind other cell phone makers when it comes to phasing out hazardous materials. Nokia's products currently contain no PVC, and Motorola and Sony Ericsson offer phones without BFRs. Nokia and Sony also have free recycling programs for old phones. In contrast, Apple promises to phase out PVC and BFRs from its products by the end of 2008. The company has no free take-back policy for recycling phones.

While it has not issued an official release, an Apple spokesperson told PC World that the iPhone complies with the latest standards on the use of hazardous substances and reaffirmed the company's commitment to voluntarily phase out toxins by the end of next year.

This is not the first time Apple has been in the green seat. In 2006, Greenpeace launched the Green My Apple campaign, because the company had been the least responsive to the organization's pressures to create more environmentally friendly products. Finally, in May, Apple responded by becoming, "A Greener Apple," but Greenpeace leaders felt that the iPhone would have been the company's first opportunity to prove exactly how green it was becoming.

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