The result of this corporate malfeasance is that at least 200 manufacturing workers have become sick among Apple's subcontractors in eastern China, reports in the Chinese official media here said Thursday.
Most of the Apple products and other top multinational electronic companies like Dell and Sony are made in China by sub-contractors in massive factories employing lakhs of Chinese workers.
Around 36 NGOs led by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) and Friends of Nature, have dubbed Apple a "sweatshop brand," as "the company has based its mass production on its subcontractors, without proper protections in the workplace," a statement said.
Ma Jun, director of the IPE, told the Global Times that they gathered statements from factory workers who said they were manufacturing components for Apple products, including at Lianjian Technology Co in Suzhou.
"We started to write to Apple in April about pollution problems by its sub-contractors, but have barely received a response. Until recently, Apple asked us to provide evidence to prove Lianjian is one of Apple's suppliers," Ma said, criticising the MNC for being so secretive about its list of suppliers.
An e-mail to Apple China spokeswoman Carolyn Wu Wednesday seeking comments received a response that the questions had been forwarded to a relevant department.
Taiwan-headquartered Lianjian Technology, one of the alleged subcontractors, is a major contributor to the world's production of small and medium-sized flat screens, the newspaper said.
The company was accused of neglecting workers' health by using N-Hexane to clean touch screens from Apple products instead of using ethyl alcohol.
The toxic cleaning material works more efficiently than ethyl alcohol, but it can penetrate human skin and the respiratory system and impede movement by damaging the nervous system.
The allegations by the Chinese groups coinciding with the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to US may come in handy for the Chinese officials to question the human rights record of American companies to deflect the criticism about China's poor right record, analysts here say.
Lianjian, which was not reachable for comment yesterday, was exposed for N-Hexane poisoning, and more than 2,000 workers protested in January of last year.
The Suzhou Administration of Work Safety later confirmed that 47 employees were poisoned by the toxic material and had received treatment.
The subcontractor was fined USD 12,153 by local environmental protection authorities for the illegal disposal of dangerous industrial waste two years ago.
One worker Jia Jingchuan, 26, who started working for Lianjian in August 2007, was diagnosed with nerve damage in August 2009 after one of his co-workers was found paralysed.
They were not informed of the toxic nature of the material and had worked in a bad ventilation environment with simple protection of mouth covers and a pair of thin rubber gloves.
After being hospitalised for nine months, Jia, along with 200 other affected coworkers, received 90,000 yuan in compensation from the company and social security fund.
"The compensation can't match the suffering we've received. Although we appear physically intact, we have lost our basic skills to survive," Jia told the newspaper.
"Apple highlights its green technology and social responsibility in front of the media. Therefore I want to ask Apple CEO Steve Jobs to think of the hardworking young Chinese workers for a second," Jia said, claiming that he saw an Apple technician sent to Lianjian for inspections every three months when he worked there.