Sometimes American safety regulations don’t extend to people living outside the U.S.
Toxic chemicals banned for use in the United States are still being used by American chip manufacturers in Asian factories—despite a proven link to miscarriages, birth defects, and cancer made 25 years ago.
After studies were published confirming the danger of certain chemicals used in production process, chip manufacturers, represented by the trade group Semiconductor Industry Association, agreed to phase them out in 1992. Instead, the dangerous chemicals were just exported to factories in Asia.
A Bloomberg investigation found that thousands of unknowing women working at Samsung, SK Hynix, and LG were put at risk until 2015, while some are possibly still being exposed today.
Most of the chemicals in question are types of ethylene glycol ethers (EGEs), which seep through rubber protective suits worn by workers. They are considered key ingredients in substances, called strippers, that clean computer chips during production.
Samsung and SK Hynix are responsible for much of the exposure since they produce about 76 percent of the memory cards worldwide, Bloomberg reports.
The risks are compounded by industry secrecy: Companies are either unwilling to expose their proprietary formulas to competitors, or skirting liability for causing irreparable harm to its workers.