A National Awakening - Toxic Hazards and the Evil of Clean Rooms
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A National Awakening - Toxic Hazards and the Evil of Clean Rooms

Wednesday, July 19, 2017By Richard Alexander

On April 10, 2017 our work was recognized in the New York Times for making a major contribution to public health in the workplace:

The issue of toxic hazards at work went national nearly 20 years ago, when former employees brought more than 200 lawsuits against IBM, accusing it of having concealed knowledge that it was exposing them to carcinogenic chemicals. Ultimately, IBM settled the suits, with the details sealed.

Fifteen years ago, we represented IBM workers in California, New York and Vermont and our investigation extended to IBM plants in France, where employees and children in utero were injured by carcinogenic and birth-defect causing chemicals in so-called “clean rooms” on both sides of the Atlantic.

American and French IBM workers developed cancers, had children with severe birth defects and suffered from miscarriages, all because of exposure to harmful chemicals that the tech industry knew were dangerous. The lawsuits the time at were reported in newspapers in the U.S. and France including the New York Times.

An overview and summary of the IBM litigation was presented at the "Conference: Sante et Travail" sponsored by CGT, and the Mutuelle Familale des Travaeilluers, Chartres, France, November 16, 2000.

A recent Bloomberg Businessweek article reported on the response of the electronics industry which has outsourced microchip manufacturing involving toxic chemicals to the third world.

More than two decades ago, tech companies across the nation pledged to stop using certain toxic chemicals in their factories. Many of those chemicals were found to cause cancer, miscarriages and birth defects. Those chemicals were to be regulated in American factories manufacturing microchips for IBM and other companies. Although they did clean up their act in U.S. factories, many tech companies simply outsourced the manufacturing dangers to their Asian suppliers. Sadly, this isn’t the only case of American companies outsourcing dangerous and hazardous work to areas with fewer safety protections for workers.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, as of 2015, thousands of women and unborn children were still being exposed to dangerous chemicals in Asian workplaces for U.S. tech companies.

When workers are exposed to toxic chemicals, they can suffer from a variety of different health problems. Many of the first health issues seen in these cases are miscarriages and birth defects in children. After years of exposure to dangerous chemicals like ethylene glycol and N-butly acetate and others in the workplace, it’s common to see employees develop cancer too.

Listed below are some toxic chemicals commonly used in tech manufacturing that can cause miscarriages and birth defects.

  • Ethylene glycol
  • Photoresist
  • Xylene
  • N-butyl acetate
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Perchloroethylene
  • Methyl ethyl ketone
  • Methanol
  • Freon
  • Sulfuric acid
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Hydrofluoric acid
  • Adhesives
  • Epoxy resins

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