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Posts Tagged ‘Workers’ Safety’

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International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health ran a picture of Hwang Yu-mi, one of 53 victims of the leukemia cluster at Samsung, and her father on the cover of the summer 2012 issue.

Data presented by SHARPS strongly suggest, but do not yet prove, a causal link between chemical exposures in the process of semiconductor production and the malignancies developed by workers in the industry, two medical researchers said in an editorial for the summer 2012 issue of International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health.

The summer 2012 issue of IJOEH also published a paper entitled “Leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in semiconductor industry workers in Korea,” which studied blood-disorder victims of South Korea’s semiconductor industry as profiled by SHARPS.

Samsung must disclose more information about chemicals employed in semiconductor production and the characteristics of workers who have and who have not developed blood disorders to conclusively determine a causal link, Mira Lee, of Physicians for Humanism, a South Korean medical advocacy group, and Howard Waitzkin, of the University of New Mexico, said.

The researchers noted:  “Samsung, the world’s largest information technology and electronics corporation (as measured by revenues), has refused to make public such data concerning the industrial processes that affect electronics workers and has impeded attempts by independent researchers to obtain essential information.”

Indeed, the lack of information narrowed the sample size and hampered the researchers’ ability to statistically associate the cancer cluster at Samsung with toxic exposures.  The editorial said:  “Due to this methodological challenge of proving causality with small numbers of cases, clusters of cancer like those that have appeared among Samsung workers may not receive the urgent attention and action that they deserve.”

The editorial also pointed to Samsung’s longstanding anti-unionism and its top-down, centralized corporate governance:  “[Samsung’s] long-standing policy that prohibits union organizing has attracted critical attention. Samsung’s overall corporate structure centralizes the policy-making that governs the activities of its vast network of subsidiary corporations. This centralization of decision making has received critical assessment even from investors concerned about the Samsung Group’s overall corporate efficiency.”

Finally, the editorial touted the activism of SHARPS, saying: “[SHARPS] researchers have pursued their work heroically, against tremendous obstacles erected by the Samsung Group and the government of South Korea. The researchers, who benefit from extensive training and experience in occupational health, bridge academia and a non-governmental organization that aims to improve occupational health conditions for electronics workers.”

As of March 2012, SHARPS has profiled 155 workers who contracted various forms of leukemia, multiple sclerosis and aplastic anemia after employment in the electronics industry in South Korea.  As of June, 2012, of the 155, 63 have died.  The majority of the workers, 138, were employed at Samsung Electronics, Samsung Electro-Mechanics and Samsung SDS—the three electronics affiliates of the Samsung Group, the country’s largest conglomerate.  Among the 63 deaths were 56 Samsung employees.

The study, Leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in semiconductor industry workers in Korea,” can be downloaded for U$48.

The IJOEH editorial, A heroic struggle to understand the risk of cancers among workers in the electronics industry: the case of Samsung, can be downloaded free of charge.

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Another Samsung woman worker has lost her life to an occupational disease, the existence of which her employer still denies, and on which her government has turned its back.

Yun Seul-ki, 32 years old, died of aplastic anemia, the condition that she has been struggling for 13 years since she was 18.

Yun was taken to hospital last month, after experiencing necrosis of more than 70 percent of her hip joint.  Her death marks her as the 56th Samsung victim and the fourth in this year.

In November 1999, the 18-year-old Yun collapsed on the cleanroom floor, where for the previous five months she had been cutting chemically glazed liquid crystal display (LCD) panels.  In December of that year, diagnosed with aplastic anemia, she was asked to leave the job.

In the cleanroom of Samsung Electronics’ plant in the city of Chonan, the only protective gear that stood between her and hazardous chemicals were thin cotton gloves.  With bare eyes, she inspected the panels for cracks and cut them into size.  She said the room was always full of glass dust and chemical odors.

Yun lived through her twenties, helped by frequent blood transfusions.   She and her mother relied on $400-a-month government handouts for poor families.  Chronic poverty meant that she stood little chance of finding a marrow donor.

In April 2012, Samsung Electronics spun off the LCD unit, where Yun was employed, into a separate company, Samsung Display Co.  The spinoff is already the world’s biggest LCD maker.

Yun did not have a family history of blood disorder.  She passed the mandatory physical and medical exam performed on prospective employees at Samsung.

It just took a healthy young girl less than six months at Samsung to become fatally ill.  It pains us to ask how long and how many deaths it will take for Samsung and the South Korean government to act to put an end to the tragedy wrought on the young workers and their families.

As of March 2012, SHARPS has profiled 155 workers who contracted various forms of leukemia, multiple sclerosis and aplastic anemia after employment in the electronics industry in South Korea.

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Yun Seul-ki’s family members enter into the ICU where she was pronounced dead–after 13 years of suffering from aplastic anemia. Her family wants to withhold  pictures of her.

As of June 2, 2012, of the 155, 63 have died.  The majority of the workers, 138, were employed at Samsung Electronics, Samsung Electro-Mechanics and Samsung SDS—the three electronics affiliates of the Samsung Group, the country’s largest conglomerate.  Among the 63 deaths were 56 Samsung employees.

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