Strange Odour in Suzhou May Choke MacBook Supply (Updated)

Suzhou authorities have ordered a partial factory closure following complaints from local residents, offering some faint hope of a broader new responsiveness to citizens’ environmental concerns. The plant belongs to one of two major suppliers—Foxconn being the other—of the unibody metal chassis found across Apple’s current range of laptops. From The Wall Street Journal:

Catcher Technology Co., a maker of high-end metal casings for laptops and smartphones, said on Monday that a plant in eastern China that was partially shut after residents complained to the local government about a “strange odor” primarily produces casings for Apple Inc.’s MacBook Air and some smartphones, meaning shipments will be affected.

[Catcher President Allen Horng] said he doesn’t know when the plant will resume full operations, which will require an inspection by the local government. Catcher’s total shipments will fall 20% in October and possibly by 40% in November if the outage continues, Mr. Horng added.

The Financial Times noted that any harmful pollution from Catcher had evaded both Apple’s own audits (PDF) and the Chinese environmental groups behind a recent report on the company’s supply chain, ‘The Other Side of Apple II‘ (PDF). Update: But the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, one of the organisations involved in the report, is now investigating. From PC World:

Since 2008, residents in the community began noticing the odor, with the smells reaching their worst starting around June of this year. One resident, who would only give her surname as Xia, said people in the community have reported breathing problems and pain in their throats. Her 5-year-old child is among those affected, she said.

“It’s been so strong that even when you close the window, the fumes will still come through,” she said. “When I smell it, my body just feels heavy and worse. When I don’t smell it, the symptoms just go away ….”

“The Chinese government is paying more and more attention to pollution control, especially when it affects the health of people,” Ma [Jun, of the IPE] said. He also noted that Apple suppliers have begun to contact environmental groups about improvements being made at their factories. Foxconn, the maker of Apple’s iPhone and iPad, recently informed IPE it would install new pollution control equipment in one of its factories in the Chinese city of Taiyuan following complaints from local residents.

October 18, 2011 4:27 AM
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