updated 04:10 pm EDT, Tue May 18, 2010
Apple supplier may be trying to deflect lawsuit
A key Apple supplier, Taiwan's Wintek, claims it has stopped using n-hexane at a subsidiary plant in Suzhou, China. The factory had been using the chemical to clean displays for Apple handhelds, namely the iPhone. Some 44 workers have announced plans to sue Wintek, however, alleging that dozens of people have become ill at the factory, sometimes seriously. At least 62 workers are said to have been hospitalized since last August; chronic exposure to the chemical can cause problems like nerve damage and paralysis.
The workers insist moreover that the hexane was unnecessary, simply an alternative to alcohol that dries faster while leaving less streaks. A factory manager blamed for ordering hexane's use has been fired.
Wintek now also states that everyone affected by poisoning has been examined and treated, and should either be recovering or back at work. A Hong Kong activist group, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, recently charged that the supplier was acknowledging fewer poisonings than had actually happened, and deliberately dragging its heels in arranging medical tests in order to hide misconduct.
Beyond the iPhone 3GS, Wintek is further known to supply screens for the iPad. It is suspected of being one of three companies supplying touchscreens for the fourth-generation iPhone.