back to article Will Apple give Chinese iPhone workers cancer? THE TRUTH

Last weekend's headlines screamed that Chinese workers making Apple's iPhone 6 were developing cancer. Is Apple's greed for ever-greater profits literally killing its Middle Kingdom wage slaves? No. Or as we might alternatively put it, nothing much to see here, move along folks. For while leukaemia ain't a nice disease and …

  1. Pen-y-gors

    The blame game

    "But to blame Apple, or Foxconn, for a disease that we know can be brought on by the simple collection of migrants into one place seems a bit harsh."

    Yeah, but it's such fun!

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: The blame game

      Well, Mr 'I'm having such fun', let me tell you having any form of Leukaemia is no fun at all. I could pray that you become afflicted but I won't.

      Just don't make fun of people with an illness. Many forms of Leukaemia have no know cause.

      I'm in remission (you can't be cured btw) with 'Hairy Cell Leukaemia'. I got it aged 55. It has a development period of 5-7 years.

      Leukaemia messes up your whole body something rotten, I still don't have a fully working sense of taste. Vindaloo's seem mild to me even now.

      Please just stop making fun of anyone who has this terrible disease. You never know if you or a loved one will get it tomorrow.

      1. Steve the Cynic

        Re: The blame game

        SD3: Please read the original post more carefully next time. He was saying that blaming Apple / Foxconn is fun, not that making fun of leukemia sufferers is fun.

  2. Ted Treen
    Thumb Up

    Good article...

    "But to blame Apple, or Foxconn, for a disease that we know can be brought on by the simple collection of migrants into one place seems a bit harsh."

    You realise Jasper won't ever talk to you again...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Peasants in China are also exposed to carcinogenic substances

    In their traditional diet, common in many parts of the country: pickled vegetables.

    So, going back to the peasant life would not even be necessarily that healthy.

    some quick links:

    I love those pickled things, btw, but I don't eat them every day of the year.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Peasants in China are also exposed to carcinogenic substances

        Yes, I did read that, notice how I did not say that pickled vegetables were causing cancer? I merely wanted to point out that there are no NGO's clamouring against pickled vegetables.

        I'll let you now get on with your recent discovery that China has been moving on since Mao ;-)

    2. Semtex451

      Re: Peasants in China are also exposed to carcinogenic substances

      "I love those pickled things"

      @ AC - Did you mean to say that?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    About time...

    when all the crap about the suicides was banded about, I took the population of "Foxconn City"and threw it against (I think) Wolverhampton, which was about the same population. The suicide rate was about 1/2 that of Wolverhampton.

    But of course when you say x people committed suicide in Foxconn, most people think of a UK factory of about 200 people, not a place of 300,000 with a city centre, housing, swimming pools, leisure clubs, bars and restaurants.

    It's a question of context, but that doesn't get the headlines.

    1. garden-snail

      Re: About time...

      Not quite that simple, thanks to skewed demographics.

      For example, it's easy to suppose that suicide rates are higher amongst the unemployed. Some proportion of the population of Wolverhampton will be unemployed, while all of the workers at Foxconn are - by definition - in gainful employment.

      1. ian 22

        Re: About time...

        Speaking of skewed demographics, what is the incidence of luekaemia in the general population? Does the lovely air quality in the region not affect it? I suspect a bit of hexane in the factory air is not the worst of their problems.

        1. Tim Worstal

          Re: About time...

          Very roughly speaking, and from memory, incidence here seems to be two to three times general population incidence. Don't hold me to that though.....

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: About time...

            With that few positives even in a extremely large sample universe, I wouldn't put much faith in any attribution as to source. The plain fact of the matter, once you really begin to grok statistics and probability theory is that cluster will be apparent even in a completely random distribution.

            In reference to nuclear power plants, I bothered to pay attention when the comparisons tossed in our direction during training. Plainly put. the safest place to be was on site operating the plant or taking readings inside it. Simply living outside carried far higher exposure levels. That's why we weren't allowed to were our dosimeters offsite.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: skewed demographics

        Most suicides in China are committed by elderly women in rural areas, not young people in urban areas.

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: About time...

      It's a question of context, but that doesn't get the headlines.

      Lost all faith...,

      As Tim Harford says on 'More or Less' all the time, the thing to consider is whether this is actually a big number. I was under the impression that the Foxconn factory employed a lot of people. If it's 300k (as I've seen in this thread), then 13 cases of leukaemia over 5 years is only an incidence of 1 in 100,000. Which makes it sound like a much smaller number. It's a rare disease, but even so.

  5. Gordon 10

    Nice debunking

    More of this please

  6. Irongut

    The death of anyone is not a tragedy, it is a fact of life. We all die.

    That some people die before their time is a tragedy but that does not make all death tragic.

    1. Tim Worstal


      Occasional limp dicks in men of a certain age are also a fact of life. I've been known to also consider it a tragedy myself.

  7. oomwat

    Sellafield is fundamentally different

    Just thought I'd mention that Sellafield/Windscale/Seascale is fundamentally different to other nuclear sites in the UK as it's involved in reprocessing of spent fuel ... comparisons between it and other UK nuclear sites are not valid.

    1. smylar

      Re: Sellafield is fundamentally different

      The article did not make that comparison, it mentioned areas of high natural radiation (higher than that around you're average nuclear site) e.g. Cornwall which has problems with Radon from decomposing Uranium in the Granite that makes up large parts of Cornwall.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We read regularly that cancer is a rich lifestyle disease, and that a combination of the greater general longevity of the wealthy stemming from a lower susceptibility to more proximal diseases like plague combined with richer diets and more sedentary lifestyles make cancer a much bigger killer among the rich.

    So I'd argue that if Apple is making Foxconn workers richer then it's also increasing their risk of getting cancer, however indirectly.

  9. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Wages up 6 fold

    against the cost of living?

    Is it like people getting jobs in London cos they pay more and then finding everything costs more and your actually worse off without a huge loan?

  10. Unicornpiss

    Assignment of blame and responsibility

    If Apple owns and runs the factories in question, then Apple is wholly responsible for how their workers are treated, and if hazardous conditions are found, they need to be corrected by Apple. And if they have been covered up or ignored, then Apple needs to be liable for each "individual tragedy"

    However, if Apple is contracting their work to other companies, no matter how egregious you might find Apple's looking the other way, it's foremost the responsibility of the company that the affected people directly work for to provide a safe workplace and to be liable for bad behavior towards their workers.

    Yes, you could argue that companies that wish to grab that golden lottery ticket that is the prospect of contracting for a behemoth like Apple, Wal-Mart, etc. are being forced into being slipshod to remain competitive, and this is certainly a grey area. But it's still a decision, and unless Apple is saying "We'd like you to ignore this hazard to meet production", they are not directly liable.

    I am no fanboi of Apple, not by any stretch of the imagination, nor of Wal-Mart or any big business that crushes out smaller companies, just because "they can", but you have to place blame where it is due. If I contract with an acquaintance and say I'll give him $1,000 to shoot my neighbour's dog. (and I've thought about offing the barky P.O.S.), I'm partially culpable for creating or allowing the situation to be created, but it's the triggerman that bears most of the blame, having decided to break or ignore the law for their own personal gain.

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