Socialist Worker

Anger at report’s denial of cancer link at National Semiconductor factory

Issue No. 2217

Workers at the National Semiconductor (NSUK) plant in Greenock, near Glasgow, believe toxic chemicals used in the production of silicon chips have raised the incidence of cancer among them.

Last week the media ran a series of stories saying the claims were false.

And a study of cancer rates at the NSUK plant by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found there was no link between the work undertaken at the factory and the ill-health of its workers.

But this contradicted previous research that said there was a possibility chemicals could be to blame.

Campaigners accused the HSE of “capitulating” to the electronics industry. They said the research was tainted because it drew on industry-funded work, carried out by the multinational IBM, to reach its conclusions.

The latest HSE report— produced by the Institute of Occupational Medicine—updated an earlier study published in 2001.

This suggested that workers suffered a higher-than-average rate of lung, breast and stomach cancer among women and brain cancer among men.


Since then, 32 NSUK workers suffering from those four strains of the disease have died. Researchers’ latest investigations discovered a further 20 cases of breast cancer among employees. Yet they told workers that no link could be established.

However, Jim McCourt of the Phase Two campaign group representing workers said, “Until we get a proper and honest study, the body-bags will continue in the industry.

“The original study found four cases of male brain cancer where there should be none.

“The HSE is the first independent organisation in the world to do a study of this industry, and they just capitulated.”

Andrew Watterson, professor at Stirling University and member of the Occupational and Environmental Health Research Group, said the latest findings were “odd”.

He added, “The 2010 report of HSE found continued failures in occupational health in the industry.

“We have a dysfunctional industry where exposures to carcinogens are noted and failures on occupational health management documented.”

Authors of the IBM-backed studies warned further work was needed to investigate further possible work-cancer links, something accepted by the company.

The HSE-backed report, however, does not acknowledge this.

“HSE plays down the evidence of its own study.” said Jim McCourt.

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Tue 31 Aug 2010, 16:50 BST
Issue No. 2217
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