Recently, Dan Watch and Electronics Watch released Winds of Change, a report which details the harsh working conditions of the electronics manufacturing sector, particularly the problems caused by occupational exposure to dangerous chemicals.
The report compiles all known cases of occupational illness among people who have worked at Samsung since 2006/2007. The total number of illnesses is likely much greater due to the fact that unlike work-related accidents, the symptoms of the illness will present over a long time span, making it difficult to pinpoint the specific time and place where the cause of health deterioration was encountered.
Victims of occupational illness in South Korea
- 289 South Korean workers in the semiconductor industry who were diagnosed with various forms of leukemia, multiple sclerosis and aplastic anemia.
- 233 of the cancer patients were employed at South Korean Samsung subsidiaries, while the other 56 worked at other electronics manufacturers.
- 119 have died.
- 98 of the workers who died have been employed at Samsung subsidiaries.
(Data collected by SHARPS)
In addition to these illnesses, workers have encountered reproductive problems. One worker profiled, MiYeon Kim, had difficulty getting pregnant and later got cancer and had to have an involuntary abortion because of cancer complications. Kim worked at a Samsung semiconductor plant for 15 years and 2 months.
The report also included the unfortunate, but not uncommon, story of sick employee from Shenzhen, China who was handling toxins without adequate protective equipment. (His suit and mask only protected the product, not the person.) This 21 year old was hospitalized for ten months after being exposed to n-hexane on the job for six to seven months. Within his workshop of 16 people, who made iPhone screen replacements, 5 were poisoned and hospitalized.
Winds of Change is the latest revelation of the severe health and safety risks effecting workers in the electronics manufacturing sector. Beyond health problems, it also sheds light on the the weak or absent ability for workers to organization in this sector.