The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) could soon launch a $3.2 million study of 28,000 IBM-Endicott employees to determine whether there’s a link between exposure to chemicals used in the circuit board manufacturing industry and increased risk for cancer.
House Appropriations Committee member Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) says he has secured funding for what would be the first comprehensive study of its kind. IBM says it would cooperate with such a study.
NIOSH scientists hope to cross-reference records dating to the early 1960s from IBM-Endicott employees with cancer and death record information. The purpose will be to see who has developed cancer and to look at which chemicals were used, by whom, and when to examine possible links between exposures and cancers.
Of particular interest is the chemical trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent used to make semiconductors. Hinchey says the New York State Department of Health has said there are elevated rates of testicular and kidney cancer, along with heart defects and low birth weights in the Endicott area. However, “the sample size is too small to conduct an epidemiological study that would show TCE to be the definitive cause.”
Hinchey says he is pushing federal and state agencies to adopt much tougher standards regarding TCE exposure.
The results of the proposed study could have worldwide occupational health and safety implications, according to environmental health experts. To date, potential health implications connected to chemical exposures in the circuit board manufacturing industry have not been widely studied.