Apple just took a big step towards greening the iPhone by removing two toxic chemicals from part of the production process. While the rare earth elements that go into many modern gadgets might be too environmentally destructive to be called “green,” the Associated Press reports that Apple is abandoning the use of benzene and n-hexane, two potentially hazardous chemicals used in the final assembly process of iPhones. The move to protect workers in the Chinese plants that assemble the phones comes after China Labor Watch and Green America launched petitions calling for Apple to abandon the chemicals.

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According to Apple, the company made the move in spite of a four-month investigation at 22 factories that found no evidence that benzene and n-hexane was endangering the lives of about half a million people who work in its plants. On top of that, no traces of the chemical were found in 18 of the facilities, while the amounts found in the other factories fell within acceptable safety levels, according to the company. Even so, along with not allowing the chemicals to be used in the process, Apple is also now requiring its factories to test all substances used to make sure they don’t contain the chemicals, even if they aren’t listed as ingredients.

Related: Apple Criticized for Toxic Chemicals in Smartphone Sweatshops

Apple is, however still allowing the use of the chemicals during the early production phases of its products, but lowering the maximum amounts that can be present in those phases. Benzene is a carcinogen that can cause leukemia if it’s not handled properly and n-hexane has been known to cause nerve damage. Both are used in solvents for cleaning machinery and electronics.

“This is doing everything we can think of to do to crack down on chemical exposures and to be responsive to concerns,” Apple vice president of environmental initiatives, Lisa Jackson told the Associated Press. “We think it’s really important that we show some leadership and really look toward the future by trying to use greener chemistries.”

Via Associated Press

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