Hazardous Materials Found in Apple’s iPhone

July 6, 2010

Tests commissioned by Greenpeace reveal a variety of hazardous chemicals in both the external and internal components of Apple’s iPhone, the international environmental group said today. The chemicals included “phthalates” in the vinyl plastic earphone wiring at levels that are prohibited in young children’s toys in San Francisco and the European Union (EU). Greenpeace also previously found phthalates in the earphone wiring of Apple’s iPod Nano.

The iPhone tests were the first of an Apple product following the company's commitment in May by CEO Steve Jobs to make a "Greener Apple." Apple specifically pledged to phase out all PVC plastics and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) by the end of 2008.

Greenpeace tested 18 components of the iPhone. In addition to vinyl (PVC) plastic with phthalates, tests showed brominated compounds in half the samples.  In their sampling report, "Missed Call: the iPhone's Hazardous Chemicals," the authors  noted that brominated compounds can create dioxin when burned.  The compounds comprised 10 percent of the total weight of the flexible circuit board in the iPhone.

This is the third time that Greenpeace has tested an Apple product since 2006. Similar analyses of a MacBook Pro and an iPod Nano also revealed the presence of phthalates and BFRs.

"Apple missed a key opportunity when it rolled out the iPhone in June.  There is no reason why the iPhone could not have been made without toxins like vinyl plastics and brominated flame retardants as Nokia is already doing," said Rick Hind of Greenpeace.

"The phthalates found in the headphone cords are classified in Europe as 'toxic to reproduction' because of their long-recognized ability to interfere with sexual development. 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," commented Dr. David Santillo, senior scientist at the Greenpeace Research Laboratories, who coordinated the project and deconstructed the iPhone for analysis.

In disassembling the iPhone for testing, Greenpeace also discovered that the battery was glued and soldered to the handset.  This will make battery replacement difficult for consumers and further undermine recycling of the iPhone when it is discarded.

"As Apple prepares to sell iPhones in Europe this November, it will have another chance to be a leader in putting a green iPhone on the global market just in time for the holidays," said Hind. "That would put the company on track to honor its pledge to phase out the use of these substances in all their products by 2008," concluded Hind.

VVPR info: steve.smith@wdc.greenpeace.org

Notes: More information at: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/news/iphone-s-hazardous-chemicals

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