August 20, 2004 – The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) said that it is seeking proposals from interested investigators for conducting an independent retrospective epidemiological study of US semiconductor wafer fab workers. The study’s principal focus will be the assessment of cancer risk among these workers over more than 30 years, from the late 1960s to the present.
A request for proposals (RFP) solicits proposals from public and private institutions — including universities, colleges, laboratories, and governmental agencies — to conduct the study.
“The SIA study will be one of the largest industry-sponsored epidemiological studies ever undertaken,” said SIA president George Scalise. “The study will review data on more than 200,000 people who worked in US semiconductor manufacturing facilities from the late 1960s to the present time in an effort to determine whether there is an increased risk of cancer related to working in such facilities. Circulation of a request for proposals to potential independent investigators is an important milestone in an ongoing effort by the industry to ensure a reliable, scientifically valid study of potential cancer risks in the semiconductor industry.”
In 1999, the SIA created an independent panel of workplace health experts, known as the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), to review available records and determine if there is any evidence of increased cancer risk among wafer fabrication workers in the US semiconductor industry.
After an 18-month study, the SAC reported that it found no affirmative evidence of increased cancer risk among semiconductor workers but that it had not found sufficient data to determine whether exposure to chemicals or other hazardous materials created an increased risk of cancer. The SAC recommended that the SIA conduct a retrospective epidemiology study, if feasible, to evaluate potential cancer risk to semiconductor workers.
In 2002, the SIA contracted with the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Bloomberg School of Public Health to conduct the feasibility study recommended by the SAC. The JHU researchers recently completed a comprehensive, 11-month review of historical records on job descriptions, chemical exposures, industrial hygiene, manufacturing processes and equipment, and employee health. In March of this year, the JHU researchers submitted their preliminary report that sufficient records do exist to conduct a scientifically valid epidemiology study. The SIA board voted to proceed with the recommended study at its March meeting.
The RFP asks potential investigators to submit an expression of interest and statement of qualifications to conduct a retrospective investigation informed by the analysis of potential study designs provided by the JHU researchers intended to focus on three main tasks:
1) compare the risks for cancer (and all-cause mortality) of all workers in the semiconductor industry to those of the U.S. population;
2) compare the risks for cancer (and all-cause mortality) of fab workers to those of non-fab workers and to the U.S. population; and
3) identify subgroups of fab workers with varying exposures to chemicals and hazardous materials and compare risks between groups and with non-fab workers.
The SIA hopes to select a research team in the 1Q05. The JHU research team estimated that the proposed study will take from three to five years to complete. The study will be funded by SIA member companies.