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Apple is known for creating state-of-the-art electronic products that become the most wanted items of the day. Products such as the iPhone, iPod, iPad, and MacBook have revolutionized the electronics industry and made Apple one of the most successful companies in the world.

However, recent incidents have exposed the unfair labor practices at Foxconn and Wintek, Apple’s suppliers in China. The mental and physical health of workers at their facilities are overlooked as they are constantly under great pressure and overworked. Many workers live in crowded dorms and work longer hours than what Apple has suggested – Apple claims there is a maximum 60-hour workweek except in unusual circumstances.

The suppliers have also come into question on worker safety. There have been multiple explosions reported in Apple’s supplier facilities. Workers were also asked to use n-hexane, a toxic chemical, to clean iPhone screens in order to enhance the speed of the production process. Finally, there have been reported suicides at Foxconn, further questioning the emotional well being of the workers.

Since these incidents, Apple has requested its suppliers take action in reexamining their compliance with the Apple Supplier Code of Conduct. Although Apple is accountable for reevaluating the labor policies of its suppliers and reinforcing a healthy working environment for workers overseas, consumers should recognize that they can be active agents in ensuring fair labor practices all over the world.

While Apple has been targeted for its human rights abuses, they aren’t the only electronics company we should be questioning. The ambiguity around supply chains plagues the whole industry, and worker rights aren’t the only area of concern.

The environmental impacts of e-waste from improper disposal are a serious concern. Old computers, televisions and cell phones contain toxic minerals that can pollute our water and soil. Earthworks’ Recycle My Cell Phone program is one way you can help protect the environment from e-waste. If you are interested in donating your old cell phone or hosting a cell phone collection drive, please visit www.recyclemycellphone.org.

By Ying Yu Chen