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Archive for May, 2010

The victims are operators, engineers, and research workers.

Most of them got their diagnosis at the age of 20’s or 30’s. Here is a brief explanation about them:

32 from Samsung Semiconductors: Leukemia, Lymphoma, Aplastic anemia, malignant melanoma, Breast cancer, Bone cancer, Head & Neck cancer, Ovarian cancer, Wegener’s granulomatosis, Polyneuropathy, Rectal cancer, Eye cancer, Liver cancer, Unknown blood disorder, Brain tumor (pituitary adenoma), Leukemia of the worker’s child

6 from Samsung LCD: Leukemia, Aplastic anemia, Brain tumor, Mediastinal cancer, Panic disorder

5 from Samsung Electric: Leukemia & Uterine cancer

2 from Samsung Electronics: Leukemia

1 from Samsung SDI ; Leukemia
Total of 31 workers have died, according to information known so far from victims and their families who have shared their cases.

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A copy of the handbook was obtained by the Hangyoreh 21

The controversy over reported workplace hazard at a Samsung Electronics semiconductors plant that may have led employees to contract leukemia has been rising following the disclosure of an internal “environmental handbook” showing the use of six types of carcinogenic materials and more than 40 types of dangerous irritants.

For Issue No. 811 to be released Monday, the magazine Hankyoreh 21 obtained a copy of the notebook, which was provided to engineers in charge of process management at the Samsung semiconductor factory in Giheung. Some 50 types of chemicals and gases appearing on the list of “Factors Influencing the Environment for the Different Processes” were analyzed for harmfulness by a team of experts, including Seoul National University Graduate School of Public Health Professor Yoon Chung-sik and Catholic University of Daegu Industrial Health Professor Choi Sang-joon. The notebook in question was classified as top secret, and distribution outside the company was prohibited.

According to the analysis, a total of six carcinogenic materials were used in the semiconductor plant, namely trichloroethylene, thinner, sensitizing solution, dimethylacetamide, arsine (AsH3) and sulfuric acid (H2SO4).

Trichloroethylene, which was used in the washing and etching process, can cause diseases such as leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, renal cancer and breast cancer. Choi said, “Trichloroethylene is a substance that Samsung currently claims not to use.” Dimethylacetamide, also used in the washing and etching process, is carcinogenic and causes sterility, spontaneous abortion and respiratory organ impairment. Hwang Yu-mi, who passed away from acute leukemia in March 2007 at the age of 23 after working in the third line at the Giheung plant, was tasked with washing work.
Sensitizing solution, which is used in the ‘photography’ process, contains dichromates and benzene, both carcinogens. Dichromates cause an allergic reaction when they come in contact with the skin and lead to asthma and breathing difficulties. Benzene is a major carcinogen that causes diseases such as leukemia. When inhaled, it leads to drowsiness and dizziness.

The environmental handbook also confirmed use of some 40 types of irritants such as hydroquinone and methane that can cause menstrual irregularity, sterility, insomnia and dementia.

To date, forty-seven people have requested assistance from semiconductor worker’s health and human rights watchdog Banollim, claiming to have contracted cancer or rare ailments after working at the Samsung semiconductor and LCD plants.

Industrial medicine specialist Gong-Yu Jeong-ok said, “We have seen previously healthy young people with no family history of disease contracting cancer, and if it has been confirmed that the factory where they worked uses all of these different kinds of carcinogenic materials, there is a strong chance these are occupational diseases.”

While acknowledging the existence of the handbook, Samsung denied any possibility that its workers were exposed to harmful chemicals. A public relations official for Samsung Electronics said the environmental notebook was provided to those who completed certification training for handling chemicals and explained, “There are double and triple safety measures in place at the semiconductor plant to prevent any leakage of chemicals, so workers are not being exposed to them.”

But an individual identified by the surname Kim who quit a job as an engineer at the Giheung plant said, “Because employees are forced to compete for productivity, there was no choice but to disable the interlock safety device, which is unnecessary and slows down the work rate.” Kim added, “They disabled dozens of interlocks on average each day, exempting only those absolutely fatal to safety.”

Another engineer who worked for more than a decade at the Giheung plant said, “When I was working there, there were quite a number of organic solvent and gas leak incidents.”

Original article in Hangyoreh: http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/421106.html

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Just published in the latest issue of Hazards (UK quarterly pro-worker journal on health and safety issues) –

an excellent double-page photo spread and article:

Samsung’s shame – Hazards photofile, issue 110, April-June 2010

http://www.hazards.org/haz110/samsungsshame.htm

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The South Korean electronics giant Samsung’s libel suit against a British columnist shows both the power of corporate conglomerates and a different view of defamation, satire and free speech.

See this article by John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, May 10 2010 – In his Christmas Day 2009 column for the Korea Times, Michael Breen had decided to lampoon such national newsmakers as President Lee Myung-bak and the pop idol Rain. Samsung is now pursuing libel charges against the writer individually.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/asia/la-fg-korea-samsung-20100510,0,5749941.story

Note that the article points out: The lawsuit refers to Breen as a Korean “specialist” with wide-ranging influence. Since 80% of its revenues are from overseas, the firm is sensitive to any “minor accident or mistake” that could adversely affect its international reputation, the suit said.

80% of revenues from overseas…. it’s up to the rest of the world to strongly condemn Samsung for its labour and corrupt practices! Let the firm be sensitive to minor accidents or mistakes – and change! Samsung, be responsible!

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Here is a new blog post from Care2 about Samsung and SHARPS – it is excellent and includes a poll at the end asking if Samsung is responsible (94% say yes) and also a number of comments that are quite good (the petition now has almost 4400 signatures)

http://www.care2.com/causes/environment/blog/blowing-the-whistle-on-samsung-s-dirty-little-secret/

Blowing The Whistle On Samsung’s Deadly Little Secret

Do you have a television? Radio? Cell phone? Digital camera?

Chances are pretty good that at least one of these appliances is made by Samsung, and even if you don’t see a Samsung appliance now, you’ve probably owned one in the past, or will in the future.

With taglines like “Turn on Tomorrow,” Samsung has gone from a little electronics company to the conglomerate that’s seen everywhere. Although Samsung’s products might be on the cutting edge of technology, most people are unaware of its crude and unfair attitudes toward worker health.

Family members and friends of these workers at Samsung in Korea believe that they have discovered a cancer cluster among young workers exposed to toxic chemicals.

USA Today reported that the company is desperately trying to reassure the public that its products are safe after a January lawsuit involving six people. All six developed leukemia and lymphoma they claim was caused by exposure to radiation and benzene, a carcinogen, in Samsung chip factories.

Last month was the 3rd anniversary of the death of Yu-mi Hwang, a Samsung semiconductor factory worker, who died from leukemia at age 22, but despite public concerns, Samsung has stonewalled.

The company says that Yu-mi’s rare episode of cancer, the miscarriage in the worker that came next and the leukemia in the worker that came after that, all from the same work station, and all the other leukemia sufferers, 10 deaths total- are all still unrelated to conditions inside the Samsung factory, but the families aren’t buying this line- and neither should you.

Despite its public committment to eliminate PVC and BFRs from new models of all its products by 2010, Samsung has only offered up two phones which don’t contain these toxic substances (Blue Earth GT-S7550 and Reclaim M560).

Yu-mi’s family, co-workers, friends and other concerned people have formed SHARPS (Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry) to demand justice for the dead and safer conditions for the workers who make our electronic gadgets.

Care2 has joined with SHARPS, The Center for Environmental Health, and the Electronics Take Back Coalition to demand that Samsung:

1) accept responsibility for the hazards of semiconductor manufacturing;
2) compensate those harmed; and
3) prevent future suffering and mistreatment of workers by making Samsung a toxics-free model workplace where workers are treated with dignity and respect.

Join us in asking Samsung to come clean regarding the chemical hazards of working in their factories.

Note: No one is sure what actually takes place on Samsung’s semiconductor manufacturing lines (because Samsung doesn’t allow photographs in its semiconductor unit) but it is known that too many workers are dying.

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