Greenpeace Report On iPhone Toxins May Prompt Lawsuit

The international environmental organization said that despite vows earlier this year by Apple CEO Steve Jobs to make Apple products environmentally safe, tests it commissioned found unhealthy chemicals in the iPhone, including toxic brominated compounds indicating the prescence of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and hazardous vinyl (PVC) plastic.

Greenpeace, which has previously criticized Apple over chemicals in its products, said Jobs had promised to phase out toxic chemicals in Apple's products. "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, in a statement on Greenpeace's Website. "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."

In a study of the iPhone, Greenpeace examined 18 components. "In addition to vinyl (PVC) plastic with phthalates, (which are used to turn polyvinyl choliride from a hard plastic into a flexible plastic), tests showed brominated compounds in half the samples.'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," Greenpeace said. ' Rick Hind, a Greenpeace spokesman, said Apple could have made the iPhone without the controversial substances. "Apple missed a key opportunity when it rolled out the iPhone in June," Hind said in a statement on Greenpeace's Website. "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."

In May, Jobs issued a company report in which he outlined Apple's environmental product safety plans. "Apple has been criticized by some environmental organizations for not being a leader in removing toxic chemicals from its new products, and for not aggressively or properly recycling its old products," Jobs said in the report. "Upon investigating Apple's current practices and progress towards these goals, I was surprised to learn that in many cases Apple is ahead of, or will soon be ahead of, most of its competitors in these areas. Whatever other improvements we need to make, it is certainly clear that we have failed to communicate the things that we are doing well."

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Apple could not be reached for comment Monday.

Greenpeace said it was disappointed with Apple's iPhone release. "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," the group said.

In related news, The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) gave Apple notice that the group intends to sue Apple over the findings in the Greenpeace report. The center said it will file the lawsuit unless Apple "enters into a binding written aggreements to 1. recall products already sold; 2. provide clear and reasonable warnings for products sold in the future or reformulate such products to eliminate the (chemical) exposures; and 3. pay an appropriare cilvil penalty based on the factors enumerated in the California Health and Safety Code."

Greenepace said some of Apple's competitor mobile phone makers have a far better record in making enviromentally safe phones than does Apple.

"Nokia is totally PVC free, Motorola and Sony Ericsson have already products on the market with BFR free components," Greenepace said. Both companies also have a global take-back policy for old phones "That saves resources and helps prevent old phones from adding to the mountain of e-waste that has been dumped in Asia. Apple does not have a global free take-back policy so the eventual fate of the between four [million] and 10 million iPhones expected to be sold in its first year is uncertain."

Greenpeace also said Apple should take action to alter its forthcoming iPhones. "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," Greenpeace said.