Apple product hazards put to shareholder vote

Apple Inc. shareholders will vote on a resolution at the company's annual meeting May 10 on a proposal to remove certain hazardous chemicals from their products.

Apple's board says it opposes the resolution, arguing that it already has adequate environmental standards.

The resolution was submitted by Trillium Asset Management Corp., of Boston, an investment firm that specializes in making socially responsible investments. It holds shares in Apple and also is a member of the Investor Environmental Health Network, which pressures public companies to remove toxic material from its products, including makers of computers, consumer electronics, fertilizer and cosmetics.

The shareholder resolution asks Apple to produce a report, within six months of the shareholder meeting, on the feasibility of "eliminating persistent and bioaccumulative toxic chemicals, and all types of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics" from its products.

Certain flame retardants used in circuit boards and PVCs have been shown to be toxic.

Dell Inc. has committed to eliminating the materials from its products by 2009 but Apple, while showing concern, has been less specific, said Steve Lippman, vice president of social research at Trillium.

"Apple has just lagged," said Lippman. "They have said they are addressing the issue, but they haven't set any timetables."

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said the company details on its Web site its environmental standards and lists hazardous chemicals it is phasing out of its products or already has. Apple and the Environment.

In June 2006, Apple announced it would end shipments to Europe of certain products, including the eMac desktop computer and the AirPort wireless access point, because they didn't comply with the European Union Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations (ROHS). Dowling said the eMac has been discontinued, the AirPort redesigned and that all its products are now RoHs-compliant.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Apple argues for a no vote on the proposal: "Apple recognizes the need for environmentally responsible production and has a record of restricting harmful substances that goes back over a decade," it states.

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