Just two years ago, CNN reported no health risks at a Samsung South Korean factory, citing a Samsung-commissioned health study. The study, conducted by Environ, concluded that there was no scientific link to an increase in leukemia for plant workers. At that time, however, Environ did not release information to back their conclusion -- hiding, it seems, behind the old "trade secrets" excuse.
Now, according to an AP report, a South Korean court concluded that studies evaluating worker safety at Samsung chip factories did not fully examine health hazards. The court case finding by the Seoul Administrative Court involved a specific worker, Kim Kyung-mi, who died in 2009 of leukemia. She worked for five years, dipping wafers in chemicals. The courts concluded that Kim was exposed to more toxic substances than the studies admitted existed at the factories. She was only 29.
According to the Associated Press report:
Samsung, one of the best known South Korean companies and a powerful force in the country's economy, has cited studies that found no dangerous levels of benzene, formaldehyde, or other carcinogens, to ease public concerns about workplace hazards.
But the studies did not evaluate exposure to chemicals during maintenance work, blackouts, gas leaks, or other incidents, when the level of toxic gas goes up sharply, the judges said. The court ordered the Korea Workers' Compensations & Welfare Service, a government agency, to pay compensation to Kim's family.
The case involving Kim was not the only suit brought against Samsung for working condition related deaths. In 2011, the South Korean court found for two Samsung workers who also died from leukemia, ordering the company to pay compensation. That ruling is under appeal. Most of the death-related cases involved old chip manufacturing lines that were shut and renovated after 2006.
An article in Science Direct, "Cases Series of Malignant Lymphohematopoietic Disorder in Korean Semiconductor Industry," published by the Occupational Safety and Health Research Institute, Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency, Incheon, Korea, discusses a total of seven cases from 2007 to 2010 at Samsung factories, concluding there was not sufficient evidence for occupational exposure.
Seems they might have been wrong.