Urge electronics brands and suppliers to implement the “Challenge to the Electronics Industry”
My son, Mark, is 37-years-old, a big man with a huge smile and a loving heart. But inside he is still a toddler. He can’t read or write or count beyond three. He can’t go to the bathroom or cross the street on his own.
I had Mark when I was 19-years-old and working in an electronics assembly plant in Silicon Valley, California.
My job was making the tips for lasers. Every day, I mixed a green powder with a liquid to make what I called “green gunk.” Then I heated it up to glue together tiny glass parts. My employer told me my job was safe. I had no idea it would later cause my child terrible physical and mental harm.
When Mark was first born, I didn’t know what caused his disabilities. Then I met a lawyer named Amanda Hawes. She dug tirelessly through company records and finally got my former employer to give up a dirty secret: that the green powder I'd used throughout my pregnancy was composed of more than 60% lead oxide, a highly toxic heavy metal. From Amanda, I learned that the dangers of lead exposure have been known for centuries: that there is no safe level of exposure, and that it’s especially dangerous to the developing brains of children and fetuses, who can suffer lifelong brain damage and behavioral problems.
Unfortunately, my company was not alone in exposing its workers and their families to harmful chemicals. Hundreds of other U.S. electronics workers and their offspring were also poisoned by toxic chemicals at their workplaces. Amanda has also fought for compensation for 100’s of electronics workers and their children — including scores of IBM workers who were stricken with a range of cancers after working for years at IBM plants throughout the U.S. While investigating these claims, Amanda discovered that IBM had a “corporate mortality file” documenting the causes of thousands of IBM worker deaths over a 30-year period. After winning a fight to have the data reviewed by an epidemiologist, Amanda and her colleagues fought and won the right to have the data published. It revealed an extraordinary number of deaths from brain, blood and breast cancer among manufacturing workers, whose jobs involved direct exposure to many toxics used in manufacturing IBM components.
The problem extends far beyond the U.S. Most of the American electronics industry has now moved its manufacturing jobs to countries like China, India, Malaysia and Mexico, where workers are often kept in the dark about the chemicals they are exposed to, and forced to work long hours with few labor protections.
In my journey as Mark's mother, and now as an advocate for safer, more sustainable electronics manufacturing processes, I want to turn Mark's story into something positive. If we can hold electronics brands, manufacturers and suppliers accountable, make them be transparent about the chemicals and processes behind their devices, and prevent harmful exposures by replacing the hazardous materials, we can help make sure what happened to Mark doesn't happen to anyone else's child.
This year, our story was featured in the new documentary, Death By Design, which explores the invisible costs of our addiction to digital devices. The film showcases the incredible work of two electronics industry watchdogs — The International Campaign for Responsible Technology and Good Electronics — and reveals what I have come to learn: that monitoring the electronics industry is crucial if we are to create safer, more sustainable workplaces for our electronics workers and for worldwide consumers of electronics.
That's why I support the “Challenge to the Electronics Industry” which is a call to the electronics industry to clean up its act.
Please, endorse the petition here and endorse the “Challenge” for all electronics brands, manufacturers and suppliers to:
- Be transparent.
- Use safer chemicals and components.
- Protect workers, communities and the environment.
- Compensate and remediate harm done to people and the environment
Already, more than 200 organizations and individuals have signed the challenge. But we need more voices to show the electronics industry that consumers care about how their devices are made, and who makes them. Together, we can hold electronics brands accountable.
To read the full text of the “Challenge to the Electronics Industry”, go here. And to find out more about my story, and the enormous environmental and human costs of an unaccountable electronics industry, visit www.deathbydesignfilm.com.
- Carlos Busquets, Director of Public Policy
Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition
Urge Tech Brands to Implement the “Challenge to the Electronics Industry”
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