Semiconductors Examining Cancer Rates

March 19, 2004 ( - The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) is launching an investigation into cancer rates among employees of the microchip industry.

The trade group representing the United States’ semiconductor industry made the decision to look at cancer rates on the recommendation of researchers from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. The focus of the study will be on “whether or not wafer fabrication workers in the US chip industry have experienced higher rates of cancer than non-fabrication workers,” the SIA said in a statement.

Claims of failing health among semiconductor workers have been on the rise. In February, a California jury dismissed claims brought by two International Business Machines (IBM) retirees that alleged harsh chemicals used at their plants were responsible for the development of their cancer (See California Jury Clears IBM in Workplace Cancer Suit ). A similar lawsuit was filed against National Semiconductor Corp.

The SIA though disputes the charges while pointing to a 1999 study commissioned by a Scientific Advisory Committee to evaluate the potential for increased cancer risks among fabrication facility workers in the semiconductor manufacturing industry. According to the SIA, the study concluded that there was no affirmative evidence of increased risk of cancer among semiconductor factory workers. The committee though did recommend the industry investigate whether sufficient historical data exists to make it feasible to conduct a scientifically valid retrospective epidemiologic study among US chip manufacturers.

Further backing up its safety record, the SIA points to 2002 statistics complied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which found the incidence of work injuries and illnesses was only 1.9 per 100 full-time workers in the semiconductor manufacturing industry. That ranking was better than 95% of all other durable goods manufacturing industries surveyed in the BLS report, the SIA added.

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