Greenpeace says electronics makers polluting water in China, other developing countries
Factories that make components for major electronics manufacturers are polluting water supplies in China and other developing countries, the environmental group Greenpeace said Thursday.
The group called on mobile phones and consumer electronics makers to clean up manufacturing processes and for China and other governments to tighten standards on handling toxic chemicals.
Greenpeace said it tested waste water and soil around factories in southern China, as well as Thailand, the Philippines and Mexico, that make or assemble printed wiring boards, semiconductors or televisions.
Researchers found unsafe levels of solvents, heavy metals and other materials in many samples, Greenpeace said in a report.
Electronics makers and their component suppliers "are contaminating rivers and underground water with a wide range of toxic chemicals," the group said in a statement issued with the report.
Two factories cited in the report both were in China's southern province of Guangdong. Greenpeace said one was operated by Taiwan's Compeq Manufacturing Co., a major electronics parts supplier, and the other by a company identified only as Fortune.
Employees who answered the phone at the Compeq factory in the city of Huizhou and at Compeq's Taipei headquarters after normal business hours on Thursday said no one was available to comment on the report.
It was not clear what companies use the components made by Compeq, but Greenpeace said Apple Inc., Motorola Inc. and Nokia Corp. were possible customers.
Industrial pollution is a volatile issue in China, sparking sometimes violent protests by farmers who say their water supplies and crops are damaged by factory emissions. Environmental officials say China's rivers and lakes are so badly polluted that millions of people have no access to water deemed clean enough to drink.
Activists also decry damage done by a computer recycling industry in China's southeast that relies on villagers to salvage materials by hand, often leaving toxic material in the soil or water.
Greenpeace appealed to Beijing for "more stringent regulations regarding discharges from electronics production facilities."
The test results show that the current regulations on water discharge are "too lax to mitigate the environmental impact of electronics industry," the group said.
Another facility cited by the Greenpeace report was a Sony Corp. factory in Tijuana, in northern Mexico, that assembles televisions and liquid crystal display panels.
In a written response to questions, Sony's Tokyo headquarters said the Tijuana facility has "no process of generating industrial wastewater discharge" and produces only kitchen and restroom waste, which is sent to a municipal treatment facility.
"Given this situation, we believe that substance which Greenpeace found has no relation to" the factory, the Sony statement said.
Greenpeace also cited five factories in Thailand that make printed
wiring boards. Phone calls to those companies after business hours on
Thursday were not answered.