Occupational poisoning in ICT manufacturing

A Swedwatch investigation, published in June 2020, supported by Make ICT Fair.

From the website:

As electronics manufacturing has been widely outsourced to Asia in recent decades, so has exposure to hazardous chemicals – to countries with weaker rights for workers. In the Philippines, women are exposed to these chemicals and suffer from serious health impacts including miscarriages and cancers. In a new report, Swedwatch calls on tech companies to ensure workers are not exposed to hazards.

The global market for devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops is huge. The European Union alone imports electronic products worth hundreds of billions of euros every year.

These products are designed and sold by major global corporations whose brands are well-known on the European market and throughout the world. But workers who manufacture these goods, or the components that they are made from, are at risk of a wide range of human rights impacts, including the harmful effects of chemicals used in the manufacturing process. Many of these, predominantly female, workers are falling victim to crippling and deadly occupational illnesses.

They describe working with nothing but thin cloth masks and surgical gloves. Many complain of dizziness, headaches and chest pains caused by fumes. One worker reports that the chemicals are so strong that her gloves regularly melted on her hands. Workers also state that miscarriages and cancers are not unusual. According to the research, laws in place to protect the workers from exposure to chemicals, and to allow them to refuse dangerous work, are not enforced.

Swedwatch calls on companies sourcing ICT components and products from the Philippines, and elsewhere, to ensure that workers are not exposed to hazardous chemicals and that their right to be informed of workplace risks is respected. Informing workers about the chemicals, their potential health impacts and necessary safety requirements is crucial to preventing harm.

This report is part of an EU-wide campaign, Make ICT Fair, which aims to raise awareness of how people and the environment are affected by electronics manufacturing and to improve working and living conditions of workers and local communities along the supply chain. It is financed by the EU and partly by SIDA.


Read the report