Chinese workers have written to Apple asking for help, after being injured while making touchscreens for mobile devices, such as iPhones. (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk)
Exposure to a chemical known as n-hexane caused adverse health effects to some 137 workers.
Apple made no comment on the letter which was signed by five workers and sent to chief executive officer Steve Jobs, asking the company to offer more help over the incidents.
The workers claim not to have received enough compensation from Wintek, the Taiwanese factory owner. They also say the factory owner has pressured those who took compensation to give up their jobs and failed to offer assurance that workers who may suffer fresh illnesses will have medical bills taken care of.
Wintek explained that it used n-hexane instead of alcohol because it evaporated more quickly, therefore speeding up production of touchscreens.
It has now reverted to using alcohol to clean screens.
Workers exposed to n-hexane experienced faintness and tiredness, sweaty hands and feet, numbness in hands and swelling and pain in feet.
But some claim they are still suffering ill-effects.
According to experts daily exposure to n-hexane can cause long-term damage.
Last week, Apple published its annual report, in which it acknowledged the incident.
“In 2010 we learned that 137 workers at the Suzhou facility of Wintek, one of Apple’s suppliers, had suffered adverse health effects following exposure to n-hexane, a chemical in cleaning agents used in some manufacturing processes,” the report read.
“We required Wintek to stop using n-hexane and to provide evidence that they had removed the chemical from their production lines,” it said.
Apple added that it asked the firm to provide adequate ventilation in the factory.
Later this year, it will monitor the plant and reaudit the facility.
Nokia and HTC are some of the other companies to which Wintek also supplies components.
Apple has experienced other problems with its Chinese factories.
Also in its annual report, Apple references another incident with its Chinese factories. At its main China supplier Foxconn’s factory more than a dozen workers committed suicide.
“We were disturbed and deeply saddened to learn that factory workers were taking their own lives,” the report read.
It also said that in order to improve conditions “suicide prevention specialists” were working with Foxconn.