All talk, no action

Mark A. DeSorbo, Associate Editor

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How many healthy experts does it take to search for cancer risks in a semiconductor fab? Moreover, how long does it take to assemble a panel of said professionals?

It's been nearly eight months since the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) announced that it would form this panel. And it was apparently in reaction to media criticism and a lawsuit that was filed in January 1999 on behalf of 70 women who claim they developed cancer and reproductive problems while working at a National Semiconductor (Santa Clara, CA) plant in Greenock, Scotland.

One of our reporters tried to get a follow-up to this story, but SIA says there was nothing new to report, reiterating that the panel of experts includes epidemiologists, industrial hygienists and occupational health and cancer research specialists from universities.

Meanwhile officials at National maintain that the lawsuit has no merit. “The Health and Safety Executive in the United Kingdom has stated it does not believe there is a scientific link between the semiconductor environment and cancer,” spokesperson LuAnn Jenkins says.

There are chipmakers out there that have faced similar lawsuits, and that's not to say these firms have not employed thorough health and safety standards for the protection of their workers. And it's admirable that the SIA would take action, but it has been far from swift. Questions will abound: When is this panel going to get to work, and how many other people in Greenock and other plants are potentially at risk?

It's amazing how innovative the chip industry is. Look how quickly the industry reacts to revamp and reinvent the technology. Why can't that same blink-of-an-eye fashion be applied when it comes to workers' health?


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