Ever Heard Of Benzene Poisoning? Me Neither. But Samsung And Apple Have.

Our culture is consumed with various devices that somehow magically appear in neat little boxes at the store or at our front door. But guess what? Those devices come at a human cost. Here's just one aspect of that.

FACT CHECK TIME:

1. Ever year in China, over 12 million teens leave home to find work. CNN reports 17 million, though their story focuses on farms, not factories.

2. They're part of 260 million Chinese who must travel far from home just to make a living, CNN reports, citing the China Labour Bulletin.

3. This Fast Company article has a first-person account of days being 8 a.m. to about 9 p.m., not including travel. Global Labour Rights reports long hours and seven-days-a-week work for factory workers. China Labor Watch reports working 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with one day off a month when production is heavy.

4. Benzene causes leukemia. Benzene is a category 1 carcinogen banned in most Western countries for industrial use.

5. The BBC and The Guardian report on n-hexane poisoning.

6. In China, over 200 million people are working in hazardous environments.

7. And much of the factory/benzene stuff is supported in this Guardian article.

Transcript:
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Narrator: This is what matters. The experience of a product. Will it make life better? Until every idea we touch enhances each life it touches.

 [crosstalk]

Woman: When I was in third grade my mother left home to work as a migrant worker. When I was in seventh grade we stopped hearing from her. I wanted to find her. To rescue her. My mind was set on earning enough money as possible. 

Woman: My dream was to leave home. To leave the country side and the mountains behind me. I was only fourteen when I started to work on the factory. I went to work because my parents worked so hard all year long to pay for my education.

Narrator: In China, every year, over 12 million teenagers leave home to find work. They're part of 260 million Chinese who must travel far from home just to make a living.

Woman: My work day started at 8:00 a.m. and ended at 11:00 p.m.. There were no holidays. I only had one night off a month. We sat there all day cleaning phone chips and using chemicals. 

Woman: There was an Apple screen and a Nokia screen. When I wasn't eating or sleeping I would be wiping something. It was the only thing I did. There was no other ventilation, no windows. The smell was horrible at first, but I eventually got used to it.

Male: My son's name is Ming Quin Pong. He just turned 26 years old. This should be the best time of his life. But, unfortunately, he was diagnosed with leukemia in May of 2009. After three examinations over 12 months, it was confirmed to be occupational leukemia. It was a form of cancer caused by benzine. 

Narrator: Benzine is a category one carcinogen that is banned in most western countries for industrial use. China, maker of more than 50% of the world's cell phones, is an exception. 

Ye Yeting: I've now been through twenty-eight Chemotherapy treatments. My bones hurt a lot. It feels like thousands of ants biting my insides. It's really painful.

Male: I've been living in this hospital for six years now. It feels like a prison, and there's no way to escape. I feel like my life is over. I really don't know what to do. 

Male: It took 19 months of struggle to prove that my leukemia was workplace related. I petitioned to the government authorities many times and was sent home by force.

Woman: The factory manager called my co-worker and told him not to tell other workers what was wrong.

Male: There were several people who accompanied me to the hospital when I received the diagnosis. They carried a bag with them. A bag of money.

Woman: They went ahead in my absence. They concluded my cancer was not caused by working at the factory, and I was denied compensation. When I was on the street, I would take a look at anyone who held a close look at anyone who had a physical resemblance to my mother. I was worried what had happened to her, and that she was suffering. That's why I've been working so hard. But now everything is... everything is over.

Woman: You know what, when I was in the hospital, I couldn't walk, but I didn't dare tell my mother. I had expected that I would be responsible, that I would try to relieve some of the burdens from my parents, but the truth is I ended up as their burden...

Male: Do you miss home? Do you want to go back home? Let's go home.

Ye Yeting: He jumped off the building. He ultimately chose to end his own life. He couldn't take the struggle any longer. The pressure of dealing with this illness, the factory, and benzine poisoning. I propose that we all stand up and hold a silent tribute for Ming. We are all benzine patients. For those of us who are alive, we need to fight for our rights, for justice, and live on.

Shek Ping Kwan: Benzine is a horrifying poison that causes cancer. We want to deliver a message to the public that benzine can be replaced by safer alternatives. 

Pauline Cveroom: We want brands to take responsibility for working conditions at their supplier factories and good occupational health and safety measures and policies and practices. And banning the use of benzine is just part of that. It's just part of supply chain responsibility.

Shek Ping Kwan: Benzine is widely used in various industries. Sporting goods, printing, and electronic  products as well as finishing materials contain benzine. Not only are the workers working in very toxic environments, but the customers who buy the products are also exposed to benzine.

Pauline Cveroom: At the moment, consumers don't have a benzine-free choice. There are no benzine-free electronics, so you can't go to a shop and ask for the one or the other thing. But consumers can ask and get in touch with brands and say, “What is this whole issue with benzine? I'm worried and concerned about benzine poisoning,” and put some pressure on brands.

Woman: Dear dad and mom, how are you? I'm sorry I'm not there to take care of you. Will you forgive me? I thought about suicide. I thought about jumping from the building, but I didn't have the strength to climb on the roof. I've come a long way now and I'm strong enough to survive. I will stay positive, live each day with a sense of purpose.

There may be small errors in this transcript.
About:

This clip is made by "Who Pays the Price?" which is about to be a full-blown documentary. Go Like their Facebook page, if you feel it. Much more about the campaigns to get benzene and n-hexane out are in this article from Wireless Design and Development.

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