SIA picks six to evaluate fab cancer risks

Mark A. DeSorbo

SAN JOSE, CA—After nearly a year-long selection process that was at times criticized for not happening fast enough, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA; San Jose, CA) has named six experts to its Science Advisory Committee, a team that will review existing data on potential cancer risks within the U.S. chip-making industry.

“It was the coordinating of schedules and searching for numerous types of specialties that took time. It was important to have that broad-base experience,” says Molly Marr, SIA's director of communications.

Committee members
Chairing the committee will be Dr. David Wegman, an occupational health research scientist, who heads the Department of Work Environment at the University of Massachusetts' Lowell College of Engineering.

Joining Dr. Wegman, a member of the International Commission on Occupational Health, are other nationally recognized scientists in the fields of epidemiology, industrial hygiene, toxicology, occupational health and cancer research. They are:

  • Dr. Harvey Checkoway, professor of the Departments of Environmental Health and Epidemiology at the University of Washington.
  • Dr. Mark Cullen, professor of medicine and public health, Yale University School of Medicine.
  • Dr. Ellen Eisen, professor in the department of work environment, University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Dr. Eisen has chaired the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Scientific Advisory Board for Breast Cancer Studies among other workplace health research appointments.
  • Dr. Karl Kelsey, professor of cancer biology and environmental health, Harvard School of Public Health.
  • Dr. Carol Rice, associate professor, and deputy director of the Education and Research Center and the Environmental & Industrial Hygiene Program at the University of Cincinnati.

In addition, two representatives from the NIOSH will work closely with this panel. The committee has agreed to meet at least four times and will submit its evaluation in early 2002.

The announced formation of the committee in January 2000 came at a time when reports had surfaced about cancer risks in semiconductor fabs. SIA responded to media criticism as well as 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.

“There were a lot of allegations out there, and we as an industry take it very seriously. It was important for us to get out there and look at the scientific evidence and then to determine a full-blown study needs to be done,” Marr says.

The most recent U.S. government data on workplace safety issues in 1998 show injury and illness rates for semiconductor workers are 2.9 cases per 100 employees—the fifth best rate in the nation when compared to 222 manufacturing industries monitored by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


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