When you buy the iPhone 4, you’re buying not just from Apple — but from the Taiwanese company Foxconn, who manufactures the phones (and pods and pads) at their mainland China factories. The company’s abusive labor practices have been reported of late, and now Chinese environmental groups are questioning whether it also violates China’s lax environmental laws.

iphone, apple, pollution, heavy metal, IT, china, foxconn, lead poisoning, cadmium, steve jobs

In May, the environmental groups released a report tracking the connection between heavy metal poisoning and IT production in China. (Lead and cadmium are used to produce mobile phone batteries and printed circuit boards.) More than 4,000 Chinese people — mostly children — were found to have unsafe levels of lead in their blood in the past year. The groups suggested that the international brands, including Apple, that contract with Chinese manufacturers ought to take responsibility for their environmental practices, which sometimes include secret pipes pumping untreated water directly into waterways.

The groups asked companies to provide more information about their Asian supply chains. Apple is one of eight companies that, 50 days later, has not responded. The question now is, why not?

The coalition is encouraging IT companies at the very least to use a map put together by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, which tracks facilities that have been dinged by the Chinese government for their environmental practices — which is to say, the worst of the worst. They’re also writing a letter to Steve Jobs.

+ Pacific Environment