Chinese investigation finds toxic substances in mobile phone cases

The consumer watchdog in Shenzhen, a major city in the south of China, has found levels of toxic substances exceeding international standards in mobile phone cases from brands including Apple and Xiaomi. The survey, conducted by the Shenzhen Consumer Council (SCC), looked at 30 cases from 28 brands. It found seven phone cases from five brands contained plasticisers, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), lead or substances at levels that breach international limits. The SCC’s tests drew on several international standards and guidelines, including:

  • those used for EU REACH;
  • ISO 4892-3 Methods of exposure to laboratory light sources – used for measuring discolouration;
  • the EU’s EN 14372 – standard for the testing of plasticisers in children’s products; and
  • the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) – requirements for lead content in children’s products.

Study findings

The Apple case examined by the SCC contained 94mg/kg PAHs, nearly 50 times higher than internationally recognised safe limits. Apple has yet to respond to any press requests for comment. The case from Xiaomi contained 0.17% plasticiser, surpassing the 0.1% mass percent that is an internationally recognised safe limit for the plasticised part of a toy. In a statement released via its social media account on Weibo, the company said it feels the tests used were “not suitable” because they are normally used to check toy safety not mobile phones. The company also noted that there are no national standards for mobile phone cases, so they had developed their own. They registered this with the Beijing Bureau of Quality and Technical Supervision in 2015. Both the Apple and Xiaomi cases were bought from their official websites. Further information on the testing is available at: 2018 mobile phone case comparison test (in Chinese)

Chemical Watch, 26 April 2018 ; http://chemicalwatch.com

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