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Technology (Apple) Technology

Toxic Fumes From Mac Pros? 267

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the that-might-explain-john-hodgmen dept.
Fanboi Killa writes "Apple is investigating damning claims, published in a leading French newspaper, that its computers emit a toxic odor containing chemicals including the cancer-causing benzene. Apple has not denied the accusations. Its spokesman, Bill Evans, told Macworld the company had not found any evidence to support the claim but Apple would continue to investigate. Posts on Apple's own discussion boards suggest the Mac maker knew about potentially toxic odors being linked to its computers as early as December last year."
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Toxic Fumes From Mac Pros?

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  • Don't worry (Score:5, Funny)

    by Stele (9443) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @07:42AM (#25231581) Homepage

    It's just the smell of smug.

  • Not MacBooks (Score:5, Informative)

    by adamwright (536224) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @07:44AM (#25231597) Homepage

    If there's any truth to it, then I'm fairly sure this only applies to MacPros (see http://blogs.zdnet.com/Apple/?p=2319 [zdnet.com]).

  • by tarkin (34045) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @07:45AM (#25231603) Homepage
    The article (and 'internets' hype) cleary state the problematic machines to be the Mac Pro (manufactured pre 2008)
  • by HEbGb (6544) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @07:47AM (#25231619)

    Saying "Apple has not denied the allegations" is sensationalistic, and doesn't belong in the summary. They "found no evidence", which, logically, is as strong a denial as can possibly be made.

    • by gunnk (463227) <gunnk&mail,fpg,unc,edu> on Thursday October 02, 2008 @07:58AM (#25231733) Homepage
      Read the article -- the whole thing is sensational.

      Even if the Greenpeace lab did detect chemicals with known health risks you still need to know the concentrations.

      You can get a all sorts of poisonous fumes coming off of anything with silicon caulk -- like aquariums -- especially when they get warm. Good stuff like toluene and ethylbenzene -- just not in concentrations that can actually harm you.

      I'm NOT trying to claim there is no problem. I'm just saying that there is nothing from the article to support that there IS a problem either -- just some anecdotes and a bit of scientifically illiterate journalism.

      With the strong smells coming off some machines, it is worth running a few tests to make sure that whatever is being emitted is not coming off at dangerous concentrations. In the meantime, though, not much to see here.
      • by toQDuj (806112)

        Also, having proper ventilation in offices can prevent headaches and the likes... sounds like he didn't have any.

      • by orclevegam (940336) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:26AM (#25232663) Journal
        I seem to recall Greenpeace going after Apple in the past as well. Haven't they been trying to slam Apple for not being ecologically friendly for years now? Not saying there isn't a problem, just saying Greenpeace isn't exactly a neutral party. Maybe one of these problem systems should be sent off to a lab that really is neutral and can say for sure whether there's a problem or not.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Not to mention that the tests were run by Greenpeace, and they have absolutely no credibility whatsoever. In conclusion, this is a stupid story written by stupid people and the massive attention it has received in the press just goes to prove that there are a lot of stupid people out there.

    • by Animaether (411575) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:05AM (#25231799) Journal

      ``They "found no evidence", which, logically, is as strong a denial as can possibly be made.``

      No, as strong a denial as can possibly be made is "That is incorrect. It is not true. Our products do not emit the fumes referred to."

      All "found no evidence" means that where they looked, using their methods, they couldn't find the fumes.

      I'm not saying they -didn't- launch a thorough investigation, but there's nothing in particular to indicate that they did, either. Certainly there's people with complaints.. unless they're all making things up, I suspect that their "[continued] investigation" will dig up some particular packaging material or electronics supplier that happened to have a bad batch.

      • by JBMcB (73720)

        No, as strong a denial as can possibly be made is "That is incorrect. It is not true. Our products do not emit the fumes referred to."

        The OP is saying, logically, they are the same thing. Scientifically speaking, not having evidence of something is as concrete as it gets, because, except for very limited scenarios, you cannot prove a negative.

        • That assumes you actually tried to look for evidence. You can quite truthfully say you have found no evidence of X if you never even looked for any in the first place.
          • by g0at (135364)

            That assumes you actually tried to look for evidence. You can quite truthfully say you have found no evidence of X if you never even looked for any in the first place.

            I disagree. To find implies to have searched.

            Look up the difference, e.g., between "see" and "look", "hear" and "listen", "feel" and "touch", etc.

            -b

        • by digitig (1056110)

          No, as strong a denial as can possibly be made is "That is incorrect. It is not true. Our products do not emit the fumes referred to."

          The OP is saying, logically, they are the same thing. Scientifically speaking, not having evidence of something after having taken all reasonable steps to find such evidence is as concrete as it gets, because, except for very limited scenarios, you cannot prove a negative.

          Fixed that for ya.

      • by Mendenhall (32321) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:46AM (#25232207)

        Actually 'found no evidence' is the strongest possible scientifically justifiable statement.

        You cannot ever prove that the machines do not, and have never, emitted such fumes, unless you have monitored each and every computer continuously with a perfectly sensitive detector (which is not possible to build...).

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Animaether (411575)

          Both statements are true. "found no evidence" isn't the strongest possible denial, while it -is- still the strongest scientifically justifiable statement. The problem with the former is that you can say it all you want, but you can't ever be 100% sure of it - as you pointed out. The 'problem' with the latter is that we don't know what their scientific justifications are.. or even whether they were scientific. If the investigation was asking a major client if any of their users complained of smells or he

        • by nahdude812 (88157) *

          You can strengthen 'found no evidence' by providing details on the steps you too to look for it. Finding no evidence with a trivial search is completely different from finding no evidence after careful and exhaustive examination.

      • I think the grandparent's post is that it's as strong a denial as can reasonably be made. You can never really prove a negative. If you told me an invisible purple unicorn lives in my backyard, then, being entirely strict, I can't really prove that there isn't. The most I can really do is challenge you to provide some kind of evidence that there is.

        In that kind of sense, if someone says there are toxic fumes coming out of a certain brand of computers, then the most the vendor can claim is that they've f

        • by caluml (551744)

          If you told me an invisible purple unicorn lives in my backyard, then, being entirely strict, I can't really prove that there isn't.

          Sure you can. How can it be invisible, and yet purple at the same time? Perhaps it's more of, say, a translucent llama?

        • by nahdude812 (88157) *

          You can provide absolute denial of existence when you are able to make a complete simultaneous observation of the system you're excluding a presence in, and if you can assert that such observation would positively identify the searched-for subject.

          For example, I can't say for sure there are no purple unicorns in my back yard (since I don't know enough about them to say that they are necessarily visible to the naked eye), but I can say that there are no elephants since my yard is small enough to be observed

    • Exactly. That's the problem in the internet age; an rumor comes up and spreads like lightning. The correct thing to do would be to investigate carefully and thoroughly, but doing that just means that the rumor mongers add "Apple has not denied the accusations!" to the rumor, as if "not denying" somehow substantiates the rumor.

      The problem is, actually doing it right-- investigating the rumor with an open mind-- takes time. So they're really in a no-win situation.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by ProfMobius (1313701)
      RTFA. The part about 'not denying the allegations' is part of the original article. It is not something the poster made by himself.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by toQDuj (806112)

      Apple even replaced the power supply and subsequently the entire mac because of "smell". I call that a little service.

    • Actually, denying that something is true and finding no evidence that something is true are two quite different things.

    • by MarkGriz (520778)
      Then it must be true. After all, the one who denied it, supplied it.
  • Duh (Score:5, Funny)

    by faloi (738831) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @07:48AM (#25231625)
    I thought we'd known that Apples give off ethylene forever. What's one more gas?
  • by archen (447353) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @07:49AM (#25231641)

    Source of the reality distortion field revealed!

  • by RemoWilliams84 (1348761) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @07:52AM (#25231673)
    Further studies show that the fumes also cause a false sense of self worth and belonging as well as an elitist attitude.
  • Um... (Score:3, Informative)

    by bytethese (1372715) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @07:52AM (#25231675)
    Mac PROS. I didn't see anything about MacBOOKS... Wow, the flurry of misinformation regarding Apple products the past few days is staggering!
    • by sarahbau (692647)

      I noticed this as well. I think there was a recent iPhone article that made no mention of MacBooks, yet had the tag "macbook" on it. Maybe people think "MacBook" is the company, like they used to think "MAC" was. That doesn't make much sense though.

    • It will take at least 5 years of flurry and bombardment of misinformation regarding Apple products to compensate for flurry of 'ipod is better than viagra' and 'jesus fucking phone NOW without copy-paste!! Aww So Cute!!' articles we have been subjected so far. I say, this is a good start, keep 'em coming.
  • Wait... (Score:5, Funny)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @07:56AM (#25231715)
    The smell has been variously described as "new car smell", "musty", "rotting carpet" and even cannabis.

    So, computer geeks smelled something musty, rotting, or something similar to pot. Uh, that's nothing new. They probably just need to clean up their rooms and smoke outside.
  • So because some Frenchman smelled something funny, now Apple has to defend against "toxic fumes" ?

  • by toQDuj (806112) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @07:59AM (#25231751) Homepage Journal

    Wow, what a discovery...

    Plastic is amongst the "dirtiest" compounds in manufacturing. They commonly contain plasticisers, colorants, residual monomers, oligomers and solvents, all of whom can, and most likely will evaporate. Depending on the choice of plastic, this is much, little, odourless or smelly.

    It looks like only the mention of Apple Mac these days will get your news posted..

    B.

    • by mpe (36238)
      Plastic is amongst the "dirtiest" compounds in manufacturing. They commonly contain plasticisers, colorants, residual monomers, oligomers and solvents, all of whom can, and most likely will evaporate.

      They are likely to evaporate faster with a heat source.
      I'd love to know how you could get any kind of smell without "odour containing chemicals" though :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sockatume (732728)
      It's Greenpeace. Trying to get half-assed scare stories into the press by associating themselves with major brands is their whole purpose these days. Heaven forbid that they actually hook up with some real environmentalists and get themselves noticed on the basis of the science.
  • by Llywelyn (531070) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @07:59AM (#25231755) Homepage

    Apple has not denied the accusations. Its spokesman, Bill Evans, told Macworld the company had not found any evidence to support the claim but Apple would continue to investigate

    Would the author of the summary prefer if Apple denied the allegations without investigating the matter?

  • by Loibisch (964797) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:00AM (#25231761)

    Guess that one was misleading.

    • by Spatial (1235392)
      Oh no, it's dead on! After a few weeks you'd be so poor that you couldn't afford to see one. :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:01AM (#25231769)

    ""My entire room smells bad and I have had to resort to a few air fresheners just to be able to work on it," one report read."

    "I recently have had a bird die 'mysteriously' which was caged near my MacPro which has had the terrible smell for months. The vet said it was likely he inhaled something toxic!!!"

    Both of those "quotes" or "reports" are pulled from the Apple forum. With no follow-up, no real names, and no fact checking. I guess it's good that they did in fact link to the posts... I'm sad to see Slashdot posting this article.

    • by toQDuj (806112)

      I find it weird that one brings a dead bird to a vet. It's not like the vet can "fix" the bird... Is this normal behaviour?

      B.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        It's not dead, it's just resting!
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I find it weird that one brings a dead bird to a vet.

        Come on, wake up. There are several good reasons to take it to the vet.

        1/ To find out if it died of some 'bird condition' which might kill your other birds or any replacement bird.
        2/ To find out if it died from something like Carbon Monoxide poisoning due to a faulty gas appliance, which might subsequently affect the house's human occupants (maybe fatally) if not fixed. Ever hear of 'the canary in the mineshaft'?
        3/ To find out (specificlly in this case) i

    • by Theaetetus (590071) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .todhsals.suteteaeht.> on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:50AM (#25232263) Homepage Journal

      ""My entire room smells bad and I have had to resort to a few air fresheners just to be able to work on it," one report read."

      "I recently have had a bird die 'mysteriously' which was caged near my MacPro which has had the terrible smell for months. The vet said it was likely he inhaled something toxic!!!"

      Bearing in mind that this is Greenpeace, I'd be more inclined to suspect unwashed hippie stink.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      >The vet said it was likely he inhaled something toxic!!!"

      Heh, thats kinda funny. What kind of vet would say that without some type of autopsy? Who would bother to autopsy a bird? Anything that kills a bird that quickly will hurt a human, and it will be obvious.

      The trolls over at the apple forums are pretty amusing.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:04AM (#25231791) Journal
    I wonder if there is some particular manufacturing issue with certain mac pros, or are users primed to be unusually sensitive about their experience with expensive hardware? I ask because there doesn't seem to be anything unusual about the mac pro. Aluminum case, not much outgassing there, industry standard drives, RAM, chipset, chips, nothing there that isn't in 10s of millions of boring beige boxes. All the specific components, motherboard, PSU, etc. are presumably sourced from the same OEMs that manufacture for everybody else.

    I can imagine that people would be more apt to notice galling details in a machine they paid over 2000 for, but I am hard pressed to believe that the mac pro is actually emitting any chemicals that numerous other machines wouldn't also be. PCB manufacturing isn't all puppies and roses, and everybody's PCBs are manufactured in essentially the same way.
    • Doesn't the MacPros in case use liquid cooling? Perhaps the container heats up and gives off some smell? I really don't know where could benzene come from a standard cooled machine.
      • Some of the powermac g5s did, toward the end of their run, use watercooling because IBM wasn't delivering high speed G5s within an easily air coolable power envelope; but none of the mac pros do.
    • by itsdapead (734413)

      I ask because there doesn't seem to be anything unusual about the mac pro.

      Well, its quite power-hungry "server class" hardware (Xeons, FB-DIMM RAM etc.) with an extremely quiet cooling system - so maybe a bit different from your average PC. ISTR that FB-DIMMs knock out quite a bit of heat (the Apple-compatible versions specify souped-up heatsinks on the DIMMs c.f. the standard).

      But, more likely, brand name recognition means that hacks think "Apple Mac Pro gives off toxic fumes" just sounds better than "GenericTech BeigeBox 2000 gives off toxic fumes" or even "Shock! Horror! All

    • by toQDuj (806112)

      I thought the mac pros had this airflow-shaping piece of plastic in their innards. That's a fairly sizeable chunk of cheap plastic..

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:14AM (#25231877)
    Just about any polymer used in a modern consumer good is going to off-gas chemicals to SOME extent, over time (it's probably even worse with "environmentally friendly" plastics meant to more quickly degrade over time). Singling out Apple is this regard is just petty. I'm sure you could find just as much in any computer made by a French company (not that France is ever going to complain about THAT, though).
  • Ratio (Score:3, Insightful)

    by g0bshiTe (596213) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:27AM (#25232003)
    I wonder what the ratio is of Mac Pro users that eat Taco Bell regularly is.

    There could be a link.
    • I have a friend who works at the Apple store and is a big fanboy.

      Guess what his former employment was?
      He was a manager at a Taco Bell.

      I think you're on to something

  • Either one of the journos really doesn't like apple , or more likely they're just a bunch of incompetent idiots. The whole story is a pile of **** anyway because ALL consumer eletronics give off tiny amounts of fumes from the organics in them.

    • by Spatial (1235392)

      Either one of the journos really doesn't like apple , or more likely they're just a bunch of incompetent idiots.

      Why? It's entirely possible to run Vista on an Apple branded PC.

      • by Viol8 (599362)

        Yes it is , but if you want a picture of the archetypal Mac you don't show it running Windows do you.

  • Kinda reminds me of the armpit smelling iBooks. I recently got a iBook G4 which reeked like unwashed male armpit. After googling I found that replacing the keyboard would fix the problem and it did. Apple hasn't officially acknowledged this particular problem.
  • Lies (Score:2, Interesting)

    It is greenpeace....why is this news. They are just a bunch of hippie-tree huggers pushing their agenda much like PETA. I would not believe anything these people say...even if they said the sky was blue i would get 2 independent studies done and still would not trust what GP was saying. /stupid lying hippies
    • Well, they`re hippies...so they obviously know what they're talking about when they say something smells funky.
    • Why would it be Greenpeace? That makes no sense if you actually think about it as this is not about the way Apple designs its products but a possible defect in the production. Perhaps you could take your knee-jerk reactions somewhere else?

      • Why would it be Greenpeace? That makes no sense if you actually think about it

        You're correct, it doesn't make any sense... if you're looking for actual logic. Greenpeace singled out Apple for its press release criticizing the practices used in the computer industry for the simple reason-- which they freely admitted-- that they get more headlines by going after Apple than they get by criticizing the computer and semiconductor industry in general.

  • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @08:59AM (#25232371)
    That's all. Soap-box science is fond of the "X contains Y, Y causes Z!" without considering the exposure, which is the absolute be-all and end-all of toxicology. As a rule of thumb, the air around you contains non-zero amounts of anything you claim to mention. Your computer mouse could quite possibly have a whole molecule of deadly hydrogen fluoride on it. This will not kill you.

    100 spin points to Greenpeace for changing VOC from "volatile organic compound" to "volatile organic contaminant", by the way. It's nice to know that I can order in 99% pure bottles of "contaminant" from Sigma, or indeed that my air freshener is busily filling my surroundings with "contaminants".
  • by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot@davidg e r a r d . co.uk> on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:09AM (#25232485) Homepage

    Apple goods are infused with narcotic addictive fumes [today.com], so you'll KEEP ON BUYING THEM. And you can't complain under the NDA. Because Apple is EVIL.

  • by flappinbooger (574405) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:12AM (#25232507) Homepage
    Sweet Sweet Stylish and Trendy Death, how soft is your grip..... [sigh]
  • Seeing as how I have both a mid-2007 Macbook and the new early-2008 Mac Pro... I'm somewhat screwed if this is true... :'( At least I spent all of my time in life on Slashdot, with people that really matter
  • Like, duh, dude (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cid Highwind (9258) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:21AM (#25232625) Homepage

    What did you think that "new computer smell" is? Volatile organic chemicals, including benzene!

    Once again we see that by mentioning Apple by name (especially in an environmental story) can magically make a pointless story into front page news...

  • iPhume (Score:3, Funny)

    by Mateo13 (1250522) on Thursday October 02, 2008 @09:30AM (#25232729)

    It's just their newest product: The iPhume

  • by taperkat (570124)
    i was employed in the retail part of Apple for almost a year, and in that time, I had two customers, both with older Mac Pros, one of which almost started a fire, and the other customer had to take his dog to the vet to be checked out and given a breathing treatment. No real explanation why it happened, and we flat out replaced the machine instead of repaired it, as they were far too gone. Closer inspection on the first was that either wires were crossed, or something plain ol' busted and went haywire with
  • ... is the only foul smell that permeates from my 8-core Mac Pro.
  • Mac vs PC (Score:2, Funny)

    by srs232 (201787)

    Hi, I'm a Mac, and I'm a P..... (thud)

  • Apple does say that they cannot find any evidence to support the claim, unlike how the story here portrays the issue. But why would anybody trust anything on /. anymore?

    http://www.macworld.com/article/135835/2008/10/macpro_benzene.html [macworld.com]
    If there's no proof of the claim, then can Apple sue the French "scientist" for damage to their business?
  • Toxic Fumes from Mac pros? I know the hygiene of professional Mac users is not always daisy fresh, but calling them toxic is a tad insensitive.

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