Apple announced on Thursday that it is officially banning two toxic chemicals from use by its manufacturing partners around the world. Apple said that an investigation of 22 of its final assembly facilities that collectively employ nearly half a million people found no widespread use of benzene or n-hexane, but that it was "expressly prohibiting" its use anyway.
Apple Manufacturing Photo
Both products have been used in cleaning products and degreasers for years, and they are commonly used in household cleaners even now. The problem is that high exposure rates—such as in a manufacturing setting where workers can clean glass displays for hours every day—can lead to nerve damage and other health problems.
The U.S., for instance, limits worker exposure to 0.5 parts per million (ppm) for benzene and 28 ppm for n-hexane. Apple was already enforcing those standards in its supply chain, but there has been increasing pressure from environmental and worker safety activists to get both of these chemicals banned entirely, and that's what Apple is doing.
From its report, titled "Apple’s Commitment To Safe Working Conditions In Our Supply Chain:"
While we didn't find any evidence of workers being put at risk, we did learn some things from our investigation. First, we concluded that safer alternatives to these chemicals exist. So we have updated our [Regulated Substances Specification] RSS to expressly prohibit the use of benzene or n-hexane in cleaning agents and degreasers in the final assembly process. We have also tightened our benzene restrictions even further, to 0.1 ppm from 0.5 ppm.
You can read more in the full report.