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iPhone 4: The Socially Conscious Phone?

June 30, 2010

Apple has been known as a company that puts form and purpose above cost. People regularly analyze Apple products like the iPhone, to help eliminate hazardous chemicals and wasteful practices. This year, one Apple customer inquired even further into their choices. Over the years, Apple has been eliminating hazardous chemicals from their products. Website recently posted a detailed article listing many of the noteworthy environmental features of the iPhone 4. Notable among them is lack of arsenic, bromine, mercury and PVC in the construction of the iPhone 4. All of these chemicals were common in consumer electronics only a few years ago, and still are used by many other manufacturers. This year, a new concern about materials in the iPhone has come to light. Many have heard of "conflict diamonds" that are mined and exported under horrific conditions, but there are many other minerals collected under similar conditions. In a recent New York Times column, one writer highlighted that many of these minerals are used in mobile devices. Based on the concerns raised in this article, one reader recently wrote an email to Steve Jobs, asking if Apple had addressed these issues:
"Hi Steve, I’d planned to buy a new iPhone tomorrow – my first upgrade since buying the very first version on the first day of its release – but I’m hesitant without knowing Apple’s position on sourcing the minerals in its products. Are you currently making any effort to source conflict-free minerals? In particular, I’m concerned that Apple is getting tantalum, tungsten, tin, and gold from Eastern Congo through its suppliers. Looking forward to your response, Derick"
And like many other lucky emailers, Derick received a quick response from Mr. Jobs:
"Yes. We require all of our suppliers to certify in writing that they use conflict few materials. But honestly there is no way for them to be sure. Until someone invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it’s a very difficult problem. Sent from my iPhone"
As Steve says, it is very hard to verify the validity of the claims, but it is good to know that Apple is conscious of the issues and trying to do something about it. It is also worth noting that sometimes the iPhone spell check even fails the CEO of Apple since the word "few" appears when he clearly meant "free." While many of Apple's policies come under criticism, it is obviously hard to find room to criticize when it comes to their environmental policies.

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