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February 24, 2010

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Workers poisoned at iPhone factory

DOZENS of people have been hospitalized for poisoning from a cleaning chemical while working for a Taiwan-based iPhone touch-screen supplier - many more people than the company admits, a newspaper has reported.

The Wintek Corporation says that 49 of its workers were stricken from the misuse of the screen cleaner n-hexane at a company factory in the Jiangsu Province city of Suzhou, and that there have been no new cases for several months.

But the number of poisoned workers is at least 100 and some victims are still being treated in at a Suzhou hospital, said one of the victims who was quoted in the National Business Daily.

The 20-year-old victim, who declined to be identified, said the plant was using the chemical when he was recruited in June 2008 to clean mobile touch-screen panels at Wintek's mainland subsidiary, United Win (China) Technology Ltd in Suzhou Industrial Park, the newspaper said. The company has about 15,000 employees.

More workers joined their cleaning crew and were occasionally exposed to the harmful solvent last year because of surging orders, while the air quality in the workshop deteriorated rapidly, the victim added.

Long-term toxicity

On August 25, Suzhou's working-safety watchdog received a report that several workers had been poisoned.

"The United Win (China) stopped its use immediately after that," Huang Zhongjie, a Wintek spokesman, said on Monday. "It was an accident due to a lack of experience by the company's executives."

Huang said the situation has been under control and no more cases occurred.

However, nurses at Suzhou No. 5 People's Hospital said this week they had received more patients from the company, the newspaper reported yesterday.

The Wintek plant in Suzhou adopted n-hexane as a cleaning agent despite long-term toxicity which can lead to extensive peripheral nervous system failure.

The company also sent all its workers exposed to the chemical for physical checks and paid for immediate treatment for suspected patients among them, as well as remedies for all the victims, the newspaper report said.


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