Apple Could Face Lawsuit Over 'Toxic' iPhone Report

Consumer group claims iPhone should come with warning label.

ByABC News
February 11, 2009, 6:36 PM

Oct. 16, 2007 — -- A consumer watchdog group is considering a lawsuit against Apple, after the release of a Greenpeace report that alleges the company's iPhone contains toxic chemicals, though some critics have labeled the study a publicity stunt.

According to the conservation group's report, scientists at Greenpeace Research Laboratories at the U.K.'s University of Exeter who dismantled the phone and tested 18 of its components found brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Greenpeace claims BFRs can release toxic chemicals when recycled, and products with PVC have come under fire in the past few years for potentially leaking harmful chemicals.

The report acknowledged, however, that the levels of both substances found in the phone were in accordance with U.S. and European government regulations.

In response to the Greenpeace report, the California-based Center for Environmental Health filed a notice of intent to file a lawsuit Monday, according to a spokesman for the center.

A 60-day notice is required before filing a lawsuit in California. The organization believes using the iPhone could leave consumers at risk to several harmful PVC byproducts and plans to do its own research during the next 60 days.

"We'd like Apple to reformulate the product to eliminate or reduce toxic chemicals," communications director Charles Margulis told

In its defense, Apple responded to the report by reiterating its original "green Apple" statement, pointing out that the levels of chemicals in its products adhere to government standards.

Future editions of the iPhone are unlikely to contain the substances in question after a May announcement by Apple that it would manufacture products without BFRs and PVC by the end of 2008.

"Like all Apple products worldwide, iPhone complies with ROHS [Restriction of Hazardous Substances], the world's toughest restrictions on toxic substances in electronics," Apple spokesman Steve Dowling told "As we have said, Apple will voluntarily eliminate the use of PVC and brominated flame retardants by the end of 2008."

Dowling refused to comment on the potential lawsuit.

Apple products are not the worst offenders on Greenpeace's report card of electronics companies and some critics of the latest report suggest that the publicity surrounding the massively hyped iPhone has made the company a target.

California's Proposition 65 specifies that products sold containing potentially harmful chemicals must have a warning label, a stipulation that the Center for Environmental Health hopes to drive home.

"Under the Proposition 65 law, the product can't be legally sold without a warning notice," Margulis said.

Industrywide, manufacturers seem to be making a move toward ridding electronics of these chemicals, according to Greenpeace's report. Nokia's phones are PVC-free, while Motorola and Sony Ericsson have released products with BFR-free components.