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Samsung chip lines ‘not linked to cancer’

GIHEUNG, Gyeonggi Province ― Samsung Electronics’ semiconductor manufacturing lines were not responsible for or directly linked to leukemia and related cancers diagnosed in former company employees, a report by an independent agency showed on Thursday.

Representatives of Environ, a U.S.-based consultancy specializing in environmental and health issues, announced the results of the study commissioned by the South Korean electronics maker.

“We found that the occupational exposure in (Samsung’s) manufacturing areas evaluated was significantly below levels developed by the scientific community to protect worker health,” said Stephen Washburn, CEO of the organization.

Out of the six cases Environ examined, four did not work with carcinogens that could have caused their type of cancer.

In two of the cases, there was exposure to carcinogens, but the accumulated amount was “substantially below levels associated with increased risks,” Environ executives said.

“Scientific evidence does not support a link between workplace exposure to agents classified as causing cancer and the type of cancer in each case,” they said in their conclusion.

The studies were based on reconstructed working areas of Samsung’s semiconductor assembly lines in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province.

The reconstruction was based on claims by six former Samsung employees who filed litigation, but did not directly involve them. Friday is Samsung’s deadline to appeal a recent court ruling that said some of the cancers the workers contracted could be classified as “industrial accidents.”

Environ was unauthorized to disclose the report of its study, and had to substitute another chip line for an original line that was shut down due to cost issues.

“We will consider revealing parts of it that would not compromise trade secrets,” said Kwon Oh-hyun, head of the company’s Digital Solutions division that controls the semiconductor business

Kwon also said Samsung would be working to help keep employees healthy, adding that the company has received multiple confirmations of providing a safe working environment.

Samsung was subject to two inspections in 2007 and 2008 by the state-run Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency which failed to detect carcinogens.

There are currently 26 former Samsung employees who have contracted leukemia or a related cancer while or after working for the company.

By Kim Ji-hyun (jemmie@heraldcorp.com)
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