Female workers at South Korean semiconductor plants face a 1.59 times higher risk of contracting leukaemia and a 2.8 times higher risk of dying from the disease than other workers, according to the findings of the country’s first ever government backed study.
The risk of female workers in the industry dying from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was 3.7 times higher. Study finding presented by the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency (KOSHA) also identified elevated risk ratios for thyroid cancer, stomach cancer, breast cancer, brain and central nervous system cancer, and kidney cancer.
The 10-year epidemiological study examined 201,057 current and former workers at six semiconductor companies, including Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix. Its findings provide a conclusive official confirmation of claims made over the past decade by workers’ rights campaigners.
SHARPS, the campaign group that has fought a high profile campaign for semiconductor factory occupational disease victims, said the risks may have been underestimated as in-house subcontracted workers were not included in the analysis.
“In the cases of stomach, breast, and thyroid cancer, they need to examine whether the increases [in reports] are the result of night-time shift work or the effects of radiation exposure [at factories] rather than simply being due to more opportunities for health checks,” the group added.
Hwang Sang-gi, the SHARPS president and father of Samsung occupational cancer victim Hwang Yu-mi, said campaigners had been vindicated.
“When our Yu-mi applied for industrial accident recognition in 2007, Samsung insisted [her leukaemia] was an isolated case, and the government just parroted that position, so they didn’t end up taking responsibility. Now it has been proven that what we said 10 years ago is 100 per cent correct,” he said.