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IPhone Contractor Sued by 44 Employees Over Poisoning

IPhone Contractor Sued by 44 Employees Over Poisoning

The Wintek Factory

Brandon Hill

May 17, 2010

It seems as though Chinese electronics manufacturing contractors are having a few issues lately with poisoning their workers. In April, DailyTech reported on a case involving Samsung workers developing leukemia while working in semiconductor plants.

Today, we’re learning that iPhone contractor Wintek is being sued by 44 workers in China over reported poisoning. The workers claim that they were poisoned by n-hexane, a chemical used to clean the LCD screens of Apple’s popular iPhone.

The report by Barron’s claims that n-hexane is used because it dries faster than alcohol and leaves fewer streaks on the LCD screens. It is alleged that 62 workers have been hospitalized since the summer of 2009 due to exposure to the chemical.

N-hexane can be extremely hazardous to humans. The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) notes that, “n-Hexane is a narcotic agent; an irritant to the eyes, upper respiratory tract, and skin; and a neurotoxin. Exposure of humans to 5,000 ppm n-hexane for 10 minutes causes marked vertigo; exposure to 1,500 ppm results in headache and slight nausea.”

When it comes to long-term exposure, OSHA describes the following:

Long-term exposure to n-hexane may cause disturbances in sensation, muscle weakness, and distal symmetric pain in the legs. Clinical changes include muscle atrophy, decreased muscle strength, footdrop, numbness, prickling, and a tingling sensation in the arms and legs. Neurological investigations reveal decreased motor nerve conduction, neurogenic damage and swelling of peripheral nerves with thinning of the myelin sheath. These symptoms may get worse for 2 to 3 months after cessation of exposure. Changes in vision may also be a symptom of chronic exposure to n-hexane

It’s likely that the Wintek workers had long-term exposure to the chemicals given the often long work days at many Chinese factories and the fact the dozens of workers’ symptoms were severe enough to require hospitalization.

“Lawsuits of any kind are uncommon in China, where disputes are usually addressed quietly behind closed doors,” reports Stratfor. “Much more common is labor abuse, and given the rising power of workers.”

We have reached out to Apple for a comment on the story, and will update the story if we get a response.

_© 2009, DailyTech.
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