In Your Phone, In Their Air

Lithium batteries in smartphones and laptops include graphite. “The companies making those products promote the bright futuristic possibilities of the ‘clean’ technology,” reports Peter Whoriskey for the Washington Post. “But virtually all such batteries use graphite, and its cheap production in China, often under lax environmental controls, produces old-fashioned industrial pollution.” China dominates the market, producing more than 60 percent of the world’s natural graphite. Fine gray particles infiltrate air, water and fields surrounding villages in northeastern China. Efforts to crack down on polluters have failed, and villagers are intimidated. A challenge for investigators, Whoriskey notes, is the complexity and secrecy of supply chains. The Washington Post investigation relied on public records, industry and company reports, and comments from company officials at the Chinese International Battery Fair. Environmental safeguards add about 15 percent to graphite refining costs. Studies suggest that that China pollution is reaching the United States. US consumer demand for low-cost electronics has concentrated manufacturing in countries with minimal environmental standards. Researchers warn that China’s pollution is spreading, and the US doses not escape the health hazards entirely. – YaleGlobal

In Your Phone, In Their Air

Traces of graphite is in consumer tech and in villages of northeastern China, where graphite is refined, it’s everywhere
Peter Whoriskey
Friday, October 28, 2016

Peter Whoriskey is a reporter in Washington, DC. Todd C. Frankel and Yanan Wang in Washington and Xu Jing contributed to this report. © 1996-2016 The Washington Post

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