Factories in China that are producing Apple iPhones as well as other products are using benzene and other poisonous chemicals in their manufacturing, and it’s allegedly making the workers sick.
In a new documentary titled “Complicit,” Yi Yeting is featured. He traveled from his home in rural China to to Shenzhen, a city close to the Hong Kong border, where he was hired as a worker in a large state-owned manufacturing company. Two years later, at the age of 24, Yi was diagnosed with leukemia. Doctors confirmed the disease was due to his daily extended exposure to benzene at his job.
Yi is only one of countless victims of global supply chains for companies that make everything from cargo containers to Apple iPhones and iPads.
Directed by Heather White and Lynn Zhang, the footage for the documentary was shot completely undercover, according to The Epoch Times. The documentary notes that 90 percent of consumer electronics in the world are manufactured in China. In 2016, Foxconn, an Apple supplier, employed more than 280 million migrant workers as young as mere teenagers.
Chinese contractors that work with global brands such as Foxconn use solvents like benzene, a chemical linked to life-threatening diseases and cancer, and n-hexane, a chemical that causes extensive nerve damage.
Another worker, Ming Kunpeng, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2009 after two years of using benzene to wipe electronic components clean. Due to the high cost of medical care for his treatment, Ming felt he had become a financial burden to his family. He killed himself at the age of 27 by jumping off the roof of a hospital.
Making the film was “an incredible, personal journey” to White. “I still get tears when I watch the film because I feel connected to those individuals,” she added.
According to White, “China is a more extreme case because of its repressive authoritarian government and the inability of workers to have a voice at all.” One example is the worker who disappeared on his way to work. He was supposed to be featured in the documentary for helping a group of Foxconn factory workers who had been diagnosed with leukemia.
“We just never heard from him again,” White said in a panel discussion after the film’s premier. “His family never found him.”
White encourages consumers sign petitions, write complaints, and call whatever phone numbers are available to put pressure on large global brands to increase oppressed worker protection. According to White, Apple, Samsung and other global companies are “able directly to influence the quality of the working conditions, at least in their own factories.”