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Why we must put the precautionary principles to work at work. Occupational Disease in the US Semiconductor industry as case-in-point Amanda Hawes JD Alexander, Hawes & Audet Worksafe Nov. 2006 .
Occupational Disease in the US Semiconductor industry as case-in-point
Amanda Hawes JD
Alexander, Hawes & Audet
like ‘limits’ of 25,000 mph when it takes 25 mph limits to prevent death and disability:
Some mainstays of semiconductor fabrication and electronics assembly:
Chlorinated HC solvents
Aromatic HC solvents
arsenic, cadmium, chromium and nickel compounds
First report of elevated miscarriage and malaise rates in clean rooms
First call for replacement of ethylene glycol ethers: “Campaign to end the Miscarriage of Justice”
Microelectronics Industry monograph alerts scientific and medical community to clean industry cancer risk
IBM workers ask about cancer in clean rooms. IBM says ‘no problem’
Claiming both ‘confidentiality’ and ‘junk science’ IBM resists workers’ efforts to:
access the IBM Corporate Mortality File (maintained for 30+ years)
present Richard Clapp’s independent analysis of the CMF in a lawsuit involving NHL and breast cancer @ IBM San Jose
ensure publication of Clapp’s findings in the peer reviewed literature.
Though Clapp’s cancer findings were excluded from the IBM workers’ cancer trial--which the 2 workers then lost--Clapp’s analysis finally appears in the peer-reviewed literature October 2006.
IBM didn’t want the story out because why?
* Health surveillance of all IBM workers
* reduce exposures to toxic substances NOWas part of transition to
* non-toxic substances in all processes
* States compile and publish cancer maps of areas around computer manufacturing plants where employees are likely to reside.
* fund to alleviate medical burden on affected IBM employees and their families.
“ new concerns … may prove a potential black eye for a high technology industry that … sought to portray itself as clean and with little impact on the environment.
Women exposed to certain chemicals … in the nation’s semiconductor factories face a significantly higher risk of miscarriage, a broad industry-financed study has found. The study is the 3rd in 4 years to find that … glycol ethers have toxic effects. “
New York Times Oct 12 and Dec. 4, 1992
Andrea was born with hydrocephaly and agenesis of the corpus callosum.
At conception and during her gestation her dad’s estimated 8 hr TWA exposures in the IBM clean rooms included:
ethylene glycol ethers 5.1 ppm
xylene 0.48 ppm
n-butyl acetate .44 ppm
And she wasn’t the only “clean room” baby born with problems.
Major malformations typically occur in 1-2% of US live births; 5-10% are CNS malformations. Thus, in 1000 live births 1-2 CNS malformations and under .5 hydrocephaly cases expected.
From 1980-89 <1000 children were born to clean room workers at 2 IBM sites with high miscarriage rates. At least three were born with hydrocephaly. Other CNS defects found in the group include spina bifida and microcephaly
“Charlotte” is a developmentally disabled young adult with normal chromosomes.
She has microcephaly, longbone anomalies, and needs a tracheal tube to breathe. Her condition matches no recongized genetic syndrome.
Mom’s estimated 8-hr TWA exposures at work included:
lead: 0.0267 mg/m3 (PEL = 0.05 mg/m3),
chromium VI: 0.023 mg/m3 (PEL = 0.5 mg/m3.)
Born in 1986, “Jeff” has had several jaw surgeries, uses a trach, and is blind.
His mom was exposed to low ppm levels of ethylene glycol ethers and other standard clean room chemicals.
Warnings on reproductive effects from ethylene glycol ethers from the late 1970s and early 1980’s noted health effects in animals exposed below then-PELs.
The Cost of Birth Defects calculates $8 billion for lifetime care for children born in the US with major birth defects in a single year.
close the gap
68 chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm are unregulated by Cal-OSHA or regulated only for non-cancer effects.
AB 815 would help close the PEL gap by directing Cal-OSHA to use the State’s environmental risk assessment data in setting workplace standards.
25 states are OSHA “state plan” states with full authority to pursue Close the Gap remedies comparable to AB 815
Challenge hazard communications that imply that PEL compliance ensures against cancer and reproductive harm
Challenge attempts to obscure sound scientific evidence that chemically-exposed workers suffer disproportionately from cancer and chronic disease
Workers have the right to know that current PELS don’t protect in a mixed chemical environment…and that occupational PELs are much weaker than environmental PELs
Environmental control costs more when workplace emissions are out-of-control
Having to invest in engineering controls to meet a PEL creates an economic incentive to switch to a safe alternative
Legal remedies are often too little too late. “No fault” workers compensation systems provide no real incentives to improve working conditions that lead to serious worker illness and death.
The Cost of NOT protecting workers is huge:
In California alone every 23 minutes another California worker is disabled by chemical exposure; another 18 workers die each day as a result of occupational chemical exposures. (UC’s Green Chemistry report )
Without health-protective PELS as well, better haz com, green chemistry campaigns, and the threat of after-the-fact liability are just not enough to prevent toxic harm to workers and their offspring in the first place.