Samsung starts semiconductor safety study

SEOUL: Samsung Electronics commissioned an independent health and safety review of its semiconductor factories in South Korea after employee illnesses and deaths raised fears of cancer risks.

The year-long investigation will be carried out by a team of leading occupational health and safety experts “who will be given complete access to Samsung’s semiconductor manufacturing facilities,” the company said in a statement.

Suspicion of a possible link between cancer and high-tech manufacturing is not new and concerns are not confined to semiconductors or Samsung.

The global technology industry has been beset by lawsuits and investigations over the years. In one high-profile case, a US jury ruled in 2004 that IBM Corp was not responsible for cancers that developed in two former employees at a disk drive plant. The suit claimed that harsh factory chemicals caused the illnesses.

Samsung Electronics Co announced its plans for the health and safety review in April, though did not offer concrete details. It has been attempting to allay public anxieties after a January lawsuit against a workers’ compensation agency involving six people who developed leukemia and lymphoma they claim was caused by exposure to radiation and the carcinogen benzene in Samsung’s chip factories.

Chip manufacturing requires numerous chemicals. Benzene has been frequently used as a solvent in the industry, though Samsung says it has never employed it.

Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung said that between 1998 and this year, 25 chip plant workers were diagnosed with leukemia or lymphoma and 10 died, according to spokesman James Chung. The company said in April that there was no risk of contracting cancer at its semiconductor facilities.

Samsung, a major force in the global electronics industry, is the world’s largest manufacturer of computer memory chips, flatscreen televisions and liquid-crystal displays. — AP

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