It’s time to weigh in on the issue of Apple’s treatment of workers, or Apple’s suppliers’ treatment of workers, in China. Something important is missing.

It seems to me that the pollution aspects of manufacturing are getting short shrift in the reporting. Apple should be addressing this factor in a big way also, or it will indeed come back to bite them.

Obviously, Apple is going where labor is cheapest, and one reason labor is cheaper in China is that attention to working conditions is far less than in the US, for example. But failure to implement pollution regulations likewise makes things far less expensive.

Apple has responded and has hired the Fair Labor Association to investigate, and they’ve noted that Apple’s supplier, Foxconn

has committed to bring its factories into full compliance with Chinese legal limits and FLA standards on working hours by July 2013

Working conditions are in the forefront, and they are being addressed, thanks to a lot of good reporting. But attention needs to be paid to the pollution from manufacturing of  iPods and iPads, up and down the manfacturing chain, from raw materials to the constituents of discharges to air, water and land.  Life-cycle analysis comes to mind.