ENVIRON discusses findings of study on health and safety measures inside Samsung semiconductor facilities
Date: July 29, 2011
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, July 29, 2011—ENVIRON discussed today the results of its yearlong study of workplace exposure control measures inside of Samsung semiconductor manufacturing facilities. The study, which was designed according to scientific standards and reviewed by an independent, external Scientific Advisory Panel, concluded that Samsung’s current manufacturing operations are well within accepted standards related to chemical and physical agent exposures. The study further concluded that the scientific evidence does not support a link between workplace exposure and the diagnosed cancers in six cases that underwent specific review.
The study was designed according to methodologies developed and published by professional committees of the American Industrial Hygiene Association. Risk assessments were performed using methods developed and used by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the United States National Academy of Sciences. The study’s design and implementation was reviewed by an independent external Scientific Advisory Panel consisting of leading academic practitioners in industrial hygiene and occupational health: Dr. Robert Herrick, professor at Harvard School of Public Health; Dr. Peter S. J. Lees, professor at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health; Dr. John Meeker, professor at University of Michigan School of Public Health; Dr. Paolo Boffetta, professor at the Tisch Cancer Institute of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine; and Dr. Jonathan Borak, professor at Yale University School of Medicine. The purpose of the panel was to provide candid and substantive comments to assist ENVIRON in ensuring the study’s sound design in conformance with the methodologies accepted by the scientific community for this type of investigation and provide results that are relevant, reliable and reproducible. Although the reviewers provided many constructive comments and suggestions, the panel was not asked to endorse the overall conclusions of the study’s final report.
ENVIRON Principal Paul Harper, who oversaw the study, said: “This study represents an important contribution to a broader understanding of workplace exposure issues in the semiconductor industry and the impact of those exposures on human health. ENVIRON was able to bring together leading scientists in occupational health, industrial hygiene and epidemiology to address the challenging issues of this study. Our consultants worked with the panel of international leaders in public health research to address these important issues objectively. This study would not have been possible without the full and unfettered access provided to Samsung’s facilities and data and the autonomy to conduct this research in accordance with the standards that have been established for this type of study.”
The study evaluated worker exposure levels to chemicals and physical agents associated with the semiconductor manufacturing process. The study examined tasks performed by workers at two current generation semiconductor fabrication lines, as well as a current generation semiconductor testing and assembly line. Workers were organized into 35 “Similar Exposure Groups” (SEGs), defined as groups of workers who, in general, perform similar tasks, work with the same materials and processes, and use chemicals or physical agents with similar frequency. The study then evaluated the magnitude and duration of each SEG’s potential exposure to chemicals and physical agents. Those exposure levels were compared to industry-standard Occupational Exposure Levels (OELs) established by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists and the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency.
The ENVIRON study categorized exposure levels for 33 of the 35 SEGs as “highly controlled” or better, meaning workers in these groups were exposed to no more than 10 percent of OELs at least 95 percent of the time. The remaining two SEGs were categorized as “well controlled,” meaning workers in these groups were exposed to no more than 50 percent of the industry-accepted levels at least 95 percent of the time.
Additionally, the study evaluated workplace exposures that could be related to the types of cancers diagnosed in six cases selected for review, specifically exposures related to the use of and potential exposure to agents, including chemicals and radiation. ENVIRON performed an exposure reconstruction for two historic wafer manufacturing lines and a historic test and assembly line where the case individuals worked during their employment at Samsung. Based on those cumulative exposure estimates, there was no evidence that four of the six cases were exposed to an agent that would have caused their cancer. Of the remaining two cases, the study found that the cumulative exposure estimates to cancer-causing agents were substantially below levels of exposure associated with an increased risk of cancer. Based on these findings, ENVIRON concluded that the scientific evidence does not support a link between workplace exposure and these diagnosed cancers.
Joyce Schlesinger, PE, Principal and President of ENVIRON's Asia operations, added: “Few studies of the semiconductor industry have quantified potential workplace exposures to chemicals and physical agents. The work done here demonstrates the value of applying sound science across technical disciplines to better understand potential exposures and how to effectively control the risks posed by such exposures. We believe this study is an important body of research, and we are optimistic that research in this field and in the semiconductor industry will continue.”
Oh-hyun Kwon, president of the Device Solutions Business of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. said: “Samsung Electronics has worked to address questions about workplace health and safety transparently. We believe this study, conducted over the past year by third-party, scientific experts provides definitive, scientifically based answers and is consistent with previous studies that found no correlation between the workplace environment and employee illness. However, this study does not mark the end of Samsung’s research efforts in this field, but rather the beginning.”