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Anorak | Apple’s New Leukaemia Mystery

Apple’s New Leukaemia Mystery

by | 17th, September 2014

A NEW allegation about those massive factories in China that make all of Apple’s iKit. That the chemicals being used to clean the electronics have caused an outbreak of leukaemia among the workers. It should be said that there’s not likely to be much truth to the allegations: but then they’re coming from a “labour watch” group who seem not to have been all that interested in the truth in the past. It’s the same group who brought us the news of the high suicide rates in the same factories. When in fact that suicide rate was lower than it is in China in general:

Apple is investigating its supply chain after the discovery of a disturbing cluster of leukaemia deaths among young workers at a factory in China where millions of its iPhones are made, The Mail on Sunday has learnt.

At least 13 workers in their late teens and early 20s have been diagnosed with leukaemia after falling sick at the massive factory in Shenzhen since 2010. Five have died – and at ages when doctors say cases of the blood cancer are rare.

Families and a labour welfare group believe the leukaemia was caused by exposure to chemicals used to clean electrical panels and say many more workers could have been affected. They add that young workers who fall sick with leukaemia are dismissed and denied continuing medical coverage, bankrupting families as they desperately pay for treatment.

That’s the allegation. But there’s one more point that has to be made:

Apple – whose launch celebrations for the iPhone 6 last week included a performance by Irish rock band U2 – says it is taking the allegations ‘very seriously’ and is looking into the issue at the Shenzhen factory, where about two million iPhones a week are made by an army of 230,000 migrant workers from across China.

We know something about migration and leukaemia. In fact, we know that mass migration leads to such clusters of leukaemia. No, really, we do, we’ve our own evidence here in the UK. Here’s the basic medical paper and here’s an easier description of it:

Prof Kinlen had another idea. In 1988, in The Lancet, he suggested that an unidentified infection – possibly a virus – was responsible. Sited between the Lake District and the Irish Sea, Seascale is 37 miles from the nearest town and relatively cut off by the Cumbrian mountains.

This isolated cul de sac had been subjected to a huge influx of people over 50 years as a result of the thousands of people who built and operated the Sellafield plant. Perhaps the Seascale cluster resulted when this influx brought viral infections with them to a rural community that was more susceptible.

There is extensive research literature linking cancers to viruses, which insert their genes into their host and can trigger genetic changes that cause cancer. Leukaemia in cats is caused by the feline leukaemia virus.

Subsequent work has shown that this is all entirely true. Mass migration causes leukaemia. We don’t even need to think about chmicals or factories: that we’ve 230,000 migrants from all over the place turning up at the same factory is enough.

But then the labour watch group gets to scream about Apple again so who really cares about the truth?



Posted: 17th, September 2014 | In: Technology Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink