Wintek workers write to Apple over health concerns

A group of workers from Wintek, an Apple manufacturing partner, suffering from symptoms related to n-hexane exposure has written a letter to Apple asking it to address their concerns. Reuters reports that the letter, signed by five employees claiming to represent their workmates, said the workers are suffering from numbness in their hands and feet, weakness in their limbs, and difficulty resting at night.

In its 2011 Apple Supplier Responsibility report (PDF Link), Apple admitted that 137 workers at the Suzhou facility of Wintek suffered adverse health effects following n-hexane exposure, something they considered a “core violation for worker endangerment.” Apple claims to have required Wintek to stop use of the chemical, provide evidence of compliance, and to have required them to fix their ventilation system; the company also states that “all affected workers have been treated successfully.”

Despite receiving treatment, the workers claim that Wintek has not provided ample compensation to affected employees, has pressured those who took compensation to abandon their jobs, and has not provided affected workers any assurances that future medical costs related to the exposure will be covered. Lam Ching-wan, a chemical pathologist at the University of Hong Kong, said that daily exposure to n-hexane can cause long-term and possibly irreversible nerve damage.

“We are unable to cope with the medical costs of treatment in the future,” said Guo Ruiqiang, a worker at the Wintek plant, who said he was suffering fresh symptoms he believes are residual effects of the poisoning. “We can only stay in the factory and see what happens.