Samsung ordered to pay compensation to cancer death families -

Updates to this story

Samsung has been ordered to pay compensation to two of its employees' families.

The South Korean court slapped the company with the order after it conceded that two staff members who worked cleaning wafers on a production line in Gyeonggi Provinc, had contracted leukaemia and passed away.   

However, other families weren't so lucky. The same court ruled that one, which had lost a member and a further two who had members suffering from lymphoma and leukaemia weren't entitled to anything.

Of course this did nothing to appease Samsung, which refused to accept the court's first verdict. It said that there was no evidence that its production lines increased the risk of cancer, adding that another investigation had cleared it of any wrong doings.

Samsung's Park Chun-ho told the Yonhap newspaper that because the ruling wasn't final, the company would move to clear these claims through "continuing trials".

The Samsung cancer link has been raging since 2010 after lobbying groups claimed that they had evidence to suggest there was a pattern of cancer amongst employees who worked in Samsung's semiconductor plants.

The investigations began after 22 year old Yu-mi Hwang, died from acute myeloid leukaemia after working in a Samsung fab. Her death was originally assumed to be result of a natural abnormality, but when a second employee died of a similar strain of disease, Ms Hwang's father began to get suspicious. He investigated and  found a number of similar deaths and unusual health conditions, which he blamed on the working conditions at Samsung.

As a result he set up the  "Samsung Accountability Campaign" encouraging families of those who had passed away from the disease, and those who were suffering from cancers to take their claims to the courts.

However, it's not been an easy ride for the families and Samsung is hiding behind the lack of evidence, which currently states that the cause of the employees' leukaemia has yet to be determined clearly on a scientific basis.

That said, the courts are standing by their guns, claiming that "it is presumable that the workers' "constant exposure to toxic chemicals and ionising radiation" had caused the illness.

"It is fit to say there is a link between their leukaemia and their careers," the court papers said.
The link between semiconductor plants and leukaemia has long been researched both in Asia and over in blighty.

Last year the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) moved to reassure workers in a Scottish semiconductor plant that they were not at risk of cancer.

According to the BBC, the fears at the National Semiconductors UK factory in Greenock, had been raging since late 1990. They were accelerated in 2001 when the HSE  released a report showing that lung, stomach and breast cancer in women and brain cancer in men was higher than expected in those who worked at the plant.

However, not even this evidence was enough to convince the agency, which decided to carry out an investigation. The outcome was that the findings did not indicate that the staff faced an "increased risk of developing occupational cancer."

It did however say it would continue to monitor health and safety in the semiconductor manufacturing industry.

The World Health Organisation was unable to comment on the link between semiconductors and cancer, claiming it didn't comment on individual cases, however, a medical bod was able to shed a little bit more light.

He told TechEye: "Although I am not a chemist, it's widely known amongst the industry that toxic chemicals are used in a semiconductor plant."

He said these included benzene, which some believe cause leukaemia, as well as trichloroethylene (TCE) which is associated with the nervous system.

"However, it's important to note that there's not 100 percent medical evidence to suggest that companies are causing cancer in workers. As an Oncologist I couldn't comment on whether or not this was a case, I haven't dealt with any patients who have been in contact with these, and going by HSE findings it looks as though workers are safe."