Air pollution in China’s ‘iPhone city’ blamed on iPhone 12 production

Air pollution in China has spiked in Zhengzhou, colloquially known as ‘iPhone city’ as it is the center of assembly operations by Apple’s key iPhone suppliers.

Analysts say that the increase in pollution can be directly linked to iPhone 12 production …

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CNBC reports.

Morgan Stanley analysts on Wednesday said that they were tracking air quality reports in Chinese cities that suggested an increase in industrial activity tied to iPhone 12 production. In Zhengzhou, China, a major production site for Apple’s manufacturing partners, Morgan Stanley analysts believe air quality data suggests a ramp in production for new iPhone models.

Morgan Stanley says its air quality analysis shows signs of iPhone 12 mass production ramping up one month later than historical patterns.

That, of course, fits with the delayed production schedule for the iPhone 12.

“As of October 26th, air quality data from Zhengzhou, also known as ‘iPhone City,’ shows that industrial production levels have spiked higher recently, about a month later than historical seasonality, which we believe coincides with the ramp in iPhone 12 mass production,” Morgan Stanley analysts led by Katy Huberty wrote in a note this week.

In Shenzhen, Morgan Stanley believes industrial production ramped higher in early September, but dipped below historical seasonal levels. In Chengdu, the analysts found that industrial activity is ramping higher in recent days. In Chongqing, industrial production has ramped meaningfully higher in recent days after an uptick and pullback in September.

Specifically, the bank says that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels have increased.

“Using air quality data from a non-profit platform that collects and publishes air quality data in China, we track nitrogen dioxide levels (controlling for temperature, humidity, wind, etc.), which, according to the European Space Agency, is a first-level indicator of industrial activity, in four Chinese cities where Apple’s manufacturing partners have a large manufacturing presence,” the analysts wrote.

Nitrogen dioxide released into the atmosphere can form acid rain, as well as decreasing crop yields. It can also be harmful to health, causing airway inflammation and exacerbating asthma.

China relies heavily on fossil fuels for energy production, resulting in extremely poor air quality in major industrial centers in the country. Apple is attempting to counter this by encouraging its suppliers to switch to renewable energy through an initiative known as the China Clean Energy Fund. This provides financial assistance, along with help navigating regulatory requirements.

iPhone assemblers Foxconn, Wistron, and Pegatron all signed up – along with A-series chipmaker TSMC – but the project is likely to take multiple years to take full effect.

Photo: Ella Ivanescu on Unsplash

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Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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