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Who Pays the Price? The Human Cost of Electronics

by Justina Hurley

who pays the price

Documentary shows the plight of young Chinese factory workers poisoned by dangerous chemicals

  • Impact of footage from the documentary so powerful that it led to a social media campaign

  • Apple announced this past week that it is eliminating Benzene and N-Hexane in the manufacture of iPhones and iPads

  • Demonstrates that sometimes it just takes one person to say something is wrong to help the system to change

Heather S. White is an award-winning, non-profit executive and researcher with 25 years of experience in international advocacy on labor and human rights issues.

When she released scenes from her unfinished film Who Pays the Price?, the Human Cost of Cheap Electronics on You Tube and Facebook depicting the terrible human toll the chemicals used in the production of iPhones were having on the health of young Chinese workers, she didn’t know just how much impact it was going to have on changing that industry.

People were so moved at the human face of suffering hidden behind the shiny must have gadgets we are all so eager to possess that a social movement was born, mobilizing activists to pressure Apple. It took on a life of its own, ultimately championed by such activist organizations as China Labor Watch and Green America.

It paid off. While Apple are by no means the only company using these chemicals, it is very significant that a corporate giant and global leader like Apple, Inc. has now committed to banning the use of toxic chemicals benzene and n-hexane in the final assembly of iPhones and iPads.

It is hoped that Apple will be the first of many tech giants to reconsider their manufacturing policies.

who pays the price

The Price? Leukemia, poor health care and little support…

who pays the priceWho Pays the Price?, the Human Cost of Cheap Electronics profiles injured and chemically poisoned young Chinese workers in factories that manufacture the world’s leading electronics brands.

Several of her subjects have been discarded by their factories after being diagnosed with leukemia. Others suffered debilitating accidents from faulty machinery.

Many return to their villages where they become incurably ill with no healthcare coverage–left to suffer, decline and struggle to survive.

The film offers an opportunity to meet the workers who are paying the price for cheap electronics. The remarkably authentic film is both touching and brutally honest. So real, that Silicon Valley companies have consistently declined interview requests. White has spent nearly two years researching and filming 100+ hours in China for Who Pays the Price?  

The trailer for Who Pays the Price? on You Tube already has more than one million views.

This victory for White and her powerful filmmaking venture is not the end. There is still more work to do, including securing concessions from other global personal tech manufacturers and funding the completion of the film, which will be the leading force and rallying cry to protect Chinese youth–and those around the world–from toxic chemicals in the production of the millions of our vital and ubiquitous personal tech tools.

However, even though Heather hasn’t even fully completed, nor even yet released her film Who Pays the Price?, the Human Cost of Cheap Electronics and she has already changed the world!

Watch the trailer below:



About Heather White

Heather s WhiteFor the last three years, White was a Network Fellow at Harvard University’s Edmund Safra Center for Ethics. Her investigative work on transparency in global supply chains has led to improved industry standards in social auditing and verification practices.

White’s perspectives on Apple Computer’s labor challenges in its Chinese factories have previously appeared in the U.S. and European media, including The New York Times, Bloomberg, CNN, The Philadelphia Inquirer, NPR, and European newspapers.

White is the founder and former Executive Director (1995-2005) of Verité, ( a non-profit organization that has won international recognition for its efforts to reduce labor violations in factories producing for American consumer brands. That organization has been recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative and is the recipient of numerous awards including Skoll Foundation, “Scientific American 50” award for Policy Leadership in Manufacturing, and Fast Company’s “Social Capital” award 2004.The filmmaker was previously a MacArthur Foundation and Ford Foundation grantee for her human rights work.





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