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IPhone Assembly Workers in China Turn Ill From Fumes, ABC Says

Chinese workers assembling Apple Inc. laptops and iPhones have become ill from breathing chemicals, Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported today, citing unidentified patients.

The employees, some of whom have been hospitalized for more than six months, are being treated at the Number Five People’s Hospital in Suzhou city in eastern China after they breathed in fumes from the chemical n-hexane while gluing and polishing logos on Apple products, the report said. The fumes led them to be dizzy, numb and unable to walk, according to the report.

“We take such reports seriously and will look into it,” Jill Tan, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman for Apple, said by phone today. Apple requires all its suppliers to abide by a Supplier Code of Conduct, she said.

In May, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, a Hong Kong labor rights group, called on consumers to boycott Apple’s iPhone because the Cupertino, California-based company isn’t doing enough to ensure workers’ safety.

The labor-rights group held protests after Chinese workers at iPhone assembler Foxconn Technology Group committed suicide and Wintek Corp., a supplier of screens to Apple, said it was providing medical care to employees who fell ill from chemical exposure.

The ABC report didn’t identify which company the workers it spoke to worked for, or what they supplied to Apple.

Calls to the general line of the Number Five People’s Hospital of Suzhou weren’t immediately answered today. Jay Huang, a spokesman for Taichung, Taiwan-based Wintek didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone today.

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