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Vodafone, BT Accused of Pollution in China

A coalition of 34 Chinese environmental groups accuse global IT companies including Vodafone, BT and 27 others of not doing more to monitor the environmental impact of their manufacturing operations and that they should be held more accountable for pollution in China’s supply chain, reports The Guardian.

The latest accusation is based on new investigation by the coalition into heavy metal poisoning in the supply chains of global IT companies, which traced a link between lead and cadmium contamination cases and the production of materials for mobile phone batteries and computer circuit boards for foreign companies.

The study finds that more than 4,000 people, mostly children, have unsafe levels of lead in their blood across several Chinese provinces.

The report highlights the responsibility of the big IT firms to ensure that low-cost manufacturing is not conducted at the expense of local people’s health.

As an example cited in the article, the investigation found that Shanghang Huaqiang Battery, which was implicated in the lead poisoning of 121 children in Fujian province last year, was a key equipment manufacturer for Narada Power Source, which is a key supplier for Vodafone, BT, and other leading global mobile telecoms brands.

Other violations cited include the discharge of pollution into a Dongguan sewer by a Hong Kong supplier of two multinational computer manufacturers.

The coalition of Chinese NGOs, which include Friends of Nature, the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs and Green Earth Volunteers, contacted the firms to ask for clarification. Some replied quickly, while others like Vodafone and BT have not responded.

In replies to The Guardian, BT said it would reply after an internal investigation into the allegations and believed that it wasn’t buying products from Shanghang Huaqiang Battery Company via third-party suppliers, and Vodafone said it was unaware of being contacted by the NGOs, but that it had a stringent code for ethical purchasing.

This is not the first time that multinational companies have been accused of pollution in China. In August last year, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo were named two of the top-12 polluters of water in Beijing. In 2007, more than 90 multinational companies were targeted by Chinese environmental authorities for pollution committed as far back as 2004

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