CA Group Threatens Apple Over iPhone Hazard Claims

Apple must be thinking it’s 1997 and not 2007 with all the bad luck that has rained down on it in recent months.

This week, Greenpeace slapped Apple over chemicals used in the iPhone. And based on the Greenpeace report, the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), an Oakland, Calif. environmental group, said it would sue Apple if it does not do something about the chemicals used in the iPhone.

The environmental concerns are only the latest bout of bad publicity for the super-hyped phone of wonders.

Its users went nuclear when OS X 10.5, also known as “Leopard,” was delayed for several months so that the company could focus on shipping the iPhone. Apple caught grief over the lack of wireless provider choices for the iPhone. And early adopters blew a gasket when the company cut the price $200 two months after its introduction.

Then the company issued firmware upgrades that “bricked” modified iPhones, further rankling its usually dedicated fan base.

This week’s round of iPhone news, however, uses the word “hazardous” to describe it, and Greenpeace isn’t messing around.

Among the offending chemicals the organization discovered are polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a plastic banned from children’s toys, in the iPhone’s headphones, and Bromine, which is typically used as a flame retardant. Greenpeace also found high uses of “phthalates,” chemicals used to increase the flexibility of plastic, in the iPhone’s headset.

Much of the problem is in the iPhone’s headset. The PVC and phthalates were in the iPhone cord, while the Bromine was found in nine of 18 iPhone components Greenpeace examined, mostly in the iPhone’s antenna. CEH could not say whether the headset cord affects the iPod, which is similar but does not have a microphone.

“There is no reason to have these potentially hazardous chemicals in iPhones,” said Michael Green, executive director of CEH, in a statement. “We expect Apple to reformulate their products to make them safer from cradle to grave, so they don’t pose a threat to consumers, workers or the environment.”

Apple did not respond to inquiries for comment by press time, and the CEH said it had not heard back from the company as of yet.

Under California’s Proposition 65 law, passed in 1986, products that can expose consumers to certain chemicals known to be reproductive toxins or carcinogens must carry a warning label.

The CEH wants Apple to either cease the use of the chemicals or issue a warning label similar to those found all over the state, including on buildings, offices, new cars and even herbal medicine bottles.

The state updates the list of chemicals annually. The list has grown to 775 chemicals since 1987. Prop. 65 has been criticized as being over reaching, however.

Prop. 65 allows for private citizens to bring their own suits, which is how the CEH intends to proceed. Such a suit would allow affected citizens — that is, iPhone owners — to be participants in the lawsuit and any resulting settlement.

“Our goal is always to get companies to reformulate, and we are almost always successful in achieving that result,” said CEH Communications Director Charles Margulis in an e-mailed comment to

“That said, since a warning label would satisfy the legal requirement, we are obliged to include that as a potential remedy in our notice letter,” he said. “If we cannot reach an agreement with Apple within 60 days from yesterday, we will certainly consider filing a citizen’s lawsuit.”

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