Missed call: the iPhone's hazardous chemicals

When will promises of a greener Apple bear fruit?

Feature story - October 15, 2007
Scientific tests, arranged by Greenpeace, reveal that Apple's iPhone contains hazardous chemicals. The tests uncovered two types of hazardous substances, some of which have already been eliminated by other mobile phone makers.

Removed, the iPhone's screen detached from the battery and processors.

In May, due to our successful Green my Apple campaign Steve Jobs, the boss of Apple, claimed: "Apple is ahead of, or will soon be ahead of, most of its competitors" on environmental issues.

We watched closely when the iPhone was launched in June for any mention of the green features of the phone from Apple. There was none.

So we bought a new iPhone in June and sent it our Research Laboratories in the UK. Analysis revealed that the iPhone contains toxic brominated compounds (indicating the prescence of brominated flame retardants (BFRs)) and hazardous PVC. The findings are detailed in the report, " Missed call: the iPhone's hazardous chemicals"

There have been thousands of media articles about the iPhone. Few of them have discussed the phone's environmental credentials. Check out our video of the disassembly of the iPhone and what the tests revealed:

An independent scientific laboratory tested 18 internal and external components of the iPhone and confirmed the presence of brominated compounds in half the samples, including in the phone's antenna, in which they 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 plastic (PVC) coating of the headphone cables.

"Steve Jobs has missed the call on making the iPhone his first step towards greening Apple's products," said Zeina Alhajj, Greenpeace International toxics campaigner. "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".

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."

Here's a slideshow of how the iPhone was disassembled for testing:

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