26 June 2020

ICT workers should not be exposed to hazardous chemicals

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 health risks connected to ICT manufacturing of products have been widely known since the 1980s, in the early years of the industry, when it was first reported that workers in Silicon Valley suffered serious health effects linked to chemical exposure. Although these impacts on workers’ human rights and health in the ICT manufacturing industry have been well-documented for many years, exposure to hazardous chemicals remains a major issue.

In the report female factory workers speak of dire working conditions at Filipino factories supplying global markets with components for ICT products. The women work 12-hour shifts, six days a week in poorly ventilated rooms where they handle hazardous chemicals without appropriate protective equipment and safety instructions.

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.

ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability currently works together with UNEP on a global guidance for enabling public procurers  to ultimately reduce the use of chemicals of concern (CoC) in the electronics sector.