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posted by n1 on Sunday June 18, @02:11AM   Printer-friendly
from the never-met-a-problem-we-couldn't-solve-by-outsourcing dept.

Results in epidemiology often are equivocal, and money can cloud science (see: tobacco companies vs. cancer researchers). Clear-cut cases are rare. Yet just such a case showed up one day in 1984 in the office of Harris Pastides, a recently appointed associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

A graduate student named James Stewart, who was working his way through school as a health and safety officer at Digital Equipment Corp., told Pastides there had been a number of miscarriages at the company's semiconductor plant in nearby Hudson, Mass. Women, especially of childbearing age, filled an estimated 68 percent of the U.S. tech industry's production jobs, and Stewart knew something few outsiders did: Making computer chips involved hundreds of chemicals. The women on the production line worked in so-called cleanrooms and wore protective suits, but that was for the chips' protection, not theirs. The women were exposed to, and in some cases directly touched, chemicals that included reproductive toxins, mutagens, and carcinogens. Reproductive dangers are among the most serious concerns in occupational health, because workers' unborn children can suffer birth defects or childhood diseases, and also because reproductive issues can be sentinels for disorders, especially cancer, that don't show up in the workers themselves until long after exposure.

Digital Equipment agreed to pay for a study, and Pastides, an expert in disease clusters, designed and conducted it. Data collection was finished in late 1986, and the results were shocking: Women at the plant had miscarriages at twice the expected rate. In November, the company disclosed the findings to employees and the Semiconductor Industry Association, a trade group, and then went public. Pastides and his colleagues were heralded as heroes by some and vilified by others, especially in the industry.

As the effects of the chemicals used in chip manufacturing became known, production was shifted to South Korea where the problems continued.


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  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @02:33AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @02:33AM (#527285)

    Intel has fabs in the USA. Do they use different chemicals? Do their workers have similar health problems?

    • (Score: 2) by davester666 on Monday June 19, @07:32AM

      by davester666 (155) on Monday June 19, @07:32AM (#527797)

      Intel brings in cheap Mexican labor to handle the dangerous chemicals, and then uses their Internapult to fling them into the Atlantic or Pacific ocean (depending on which plant they work at) when they become unproductive through illness.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @02:40AM (12 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @02:40AM (#527289)

    yes, greed trumps all, we know, its the american way. the business of america is business. all else is irrelevant. you have been assimilated.

    • (Score: -1, Redundant) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @03:20AM (8 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @03:20AM (#527299)

      Paradoxically, you wouldn't be able to take care of people humanely were it not for the innovations of the shamelessly greedy.

      What does this mean? It means you should quit trying to ignore greed, and instead direct it towards your purposes; it means you should construct your world view of society in a way that embraces greed: Adopt a culture that places an almost religious sanctity around contract negotiation and enforcement, and in this way, at least there will develop a game of mostly-open, well-defined rules in which the greedy must operate (NO! Laws passed by legislatures do not provide the same; legislation is based on coercion, and coercion is the favorite tool of the greedy.)

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @05:24AM (4 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @05:24AM (#527352)

        What makes you think sociopaths won't subvert a system of contracts?

        What makes you think they'll bother with following a contract the second it's inconvenient to them?

        Contracts become nothing but another form of coercion against a party who cannot bring as much violence force (blood spilled, death) to bear as the party offering the contract.

        • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @07:25AM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @07:25AM (#527388)

          Rather, I embrace those possibilities, and seek to design a system informed by it; that means I sure as hell do not support granting one particular organization a monopoly on "law" or contract enforcement or "regulation", etc.

          Clearly, that would be insane... yet it's exactly what you and your ilk have decided is good and proper.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @03:58PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @03:58PM (#527498)

            You still forget about basic violence.

            Humans have really no compunctions against maiming and killing each other. They have zero respect for contracts, and there is no contract in the world that can keep that in check that doesn't quickly devolve into a single warlord violently imposing his will as a monopoly.

            I don't think you're incorrect in calling that arrangement insane. Humans are generally insane.

        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday June 18, @11:21AM (1 child)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 18, @11:21AM (#527425) Journal

          What makes you think sociopaths won't subvert a system of contracts?

          Why does a system of contracts merit disregard on this basis while existing systems with the same problems do not?

          What makes you think they'll bother with following a contract the second it's inconvenient to them?

          Contracts become nothing but another form of coercion against a party who cannot bring as much violence force (blood spilled, death) to bear as the party offering the contract.

          Sounds like from the grandparent's assertions that he intends to bring plenty of violent force against contract breakers. It's worth noting here that contract breaking is fairly objective behavior to determine while "sociopathic" behavior is not.

          • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @04:08PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @04:08PM (#527503)

            Very good points.

            Why does a system of contracts merit disregard on this basis while existing systems with the same problems do not?

            All existing systems can be subverted by sociopaths. My main argument in the meta-thread is that there likely is no system that sociopaths cannot subvert, if necessary by application of violence in direct violation of a contract.

            Sounds like from the grandparent's assertions that he intends to bring plenty of violent force against contract breakers. It's worth noting here that contract breaking is fairly objective behavior to determine while "sociopathic" behavior is not.

            His model for applying violence in the pursuit of contract enforcement is based on the free market. It's not a bad idea on its face. The trouble is that it will quickly (d)evolve into a situation where there are multiple warlords representing factions of people who have all collectively decided to break their contracts.

            You're correct that "sociopath" is not an objective measure. What I had hoped to mean by using that word was a pattern of behavior that results in a thing we can objectively measure: contract breaking, as you noted. It's also a pattern of behavior that includes seeking and rallying allies against the party to the contract the sociopath wishes to break.

            Imo, the best solution is to seek a warlord with a monopoly on contract enforcement who believes in practical libertarianism, i.e. he engages in little more than contract enforcement, and his general contract with the masses is focused only on prohibiting any other party from applying violence.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @06:27AM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @06:27AM (#527374)

        The innovations were not done by the shamelessly greedy. Engineers and scientists come up with this stuff, they'd be doing it anyway. Economics is a solution to the problem of human exchange. We have forgotten that it is a tool and started worshipping it like an idol. Fucktarded.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @07:36AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @07:36AM (#527394)

          You'll note that modern civilization really started taking off when Capitalism became one of the widespread philosophies; this is because "scientists and engineers doing their thing" requires flows of RESOURCES, which is a matter of human exchange.

          In truth, there is nothing to society but human exchange—if you don't get that right, guess what? Nothing happens! This is why the Soviet Union failed despite the fact that it was founded on an appreciation for what was supposed to be well-planned flows of resources.

      • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Tuesday June 20, @01:00PM

        by Wootery (2341) on Tuesday June 20, @01:00PM (#528431)

        Ayn Rand: because what is dead may never die.

        I keep complaining [soylentnews.org] that ACs rarely bring us anything but crap. Again you prove me right.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @04:41AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @04:41AM (#527333)

      Considering every other country out there is willing to sell the lives of their poor in order to make these products for us, it seems obvious that greed is a worldwide problem. Unless you're just some hack with a personal ax to grind.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday June 18, @11:23AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 18, @11:23AM (#527426) Journal

        Considering every other country out there is willing to sell the lives of their poor in order to make these products for us, it seems obvious that greed is a worldwide problem. Unless you're just some hack with a personal ax to grind.

        No, it is obvious that poverty is a world wide problem. And despite the present of greed, the current system which is heavily capitalist and globalism has done much to reduce that poverty.

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @07:29AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @07:29AM (#527391)

      Paradoxically, you wouldn't be able to take care of people humanely were it not for the innovations of the shamelessly greedy.

      What does this mean? It means you should quit trying to ignore greed, and instead direct it towards your purposes; it means you should construct your world view of society in a way that embraces greed: Adopt a culture that places an almost religious sanctity around contract negotiation and enforcement, and in this way, at least there will develop a game of mostly-open, well-defined rules in which the greedy must operate (NO! Laws passed by legislatures do not provide the same; legislation is based on coercion, and coercion is the favorite tool of the greedy.)

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Whoever on Sunday June 18, @02:49AM (3 children)

    by Whoever (4524) on Sunday June 18, @02:49AM (#527290)

    I once worked for a semiconductor manufacturer.

    People remarked that one department that had been sited in the same building as one or more fabs had a a high rate of unusual cancers. These were not fab workers: they probably stepped into the clean rooms only a handful of times. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, perhaps not: I don't think it was ever investigated.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @06:30AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @06:30AM (#527376)

      One of the darker sides to globalism, not just finding cheaper labor but also dupes who don't know better when they're being poisoned. No need to spend money fixing the system, just hurt some people who can't fight back!

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by JoeMerchant on Sunday June 18, @04:54PM (1 child)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday June 18, @04:54PM (#527521)

      I once worked for an electronics manufacturer: PCBAs, circuit breakers, toggle switches, lots of solvents around - open 55 gallon drums of Freon-8 while I was there in 1987. A few years earlier when the plant opened, the girls (women in early 20s) who worked the PCB cleaning lines were losing sensation in their fingers, not just a little, like total loss of feeling. Management had them back off exposure to the solvents and the feeling came back. When I arrived I noticed that the same girls who had gone numb in the fingers a few years before were pretty seriously spaced out, mentally. Slow response times, not making connections that most people would make, etc. Pleasant enough to work with, but the implications were beyond scary.

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday June 18, @06:08PM

        by Ethanol-fueled (2792) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 18, @06:08PM (#527539) Homepage Journal

        I have a similar story, except that this company refurbished rather than manufactured -- refurbishing and reselling hard drives back when it was economical to do so. Apparently whatever chemicals they used were really nasty, and a disproportionate number of workers got cancer.

        Fortunately the company exited the hard drive refurbishment business before I started working for them -- although the company was still a house of horrors, performing warranty repair for Best Buy and other large retailers. Ever buy one of those ripoff extended warranty plans with your new laptop? You'll wish you didn't when you send your laptop in for repair and get it back with your keyboard keys 2 or 3 different shades of color and the case screws super-glued in their holes.

  • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Sunday June 18, @03:10AM

    by fustakrakich (6150) on Sunday June 18, @03:10AM (#527295) Journal

    They wanted to shift the problem, I mean, production to North Korea, but we hate North Korea

  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Sunday June 18, @03:16AM (6 children)

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 18, @03:16AM (#527298)

    The problem with us, humans, is we're a sack of chemicals [xkcd.com]

    Some substances will undo as horribly [wikipedia.org], in quantities as low as 0.1mL [wikipedia.org] or 1.8mg [wikipedia.org]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @03:26AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @03:26AM (#527304)

      And some substances will do pretty gud in as little as 100 µg [wikipedia.org]

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @03:37AM (3 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @03:37AM (#527309)

      Karen Wetterhahn died of dimethylmercury poisoning while happening to be female so obviously, "Dartmouth College has since established an award in Wetterhahn's name to encourage other women to pursue careers in science."

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @03:48AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @03:48AM (#527315)

        "Dartmouth College has since established an award in Wetterhahn's name to encourage other women to pursue careers in science."

        What other better use for women in science than for decontamination purposes.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @05:32AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @05:32AM (#527359)

        Ah, important safety tip: transition to living as a man before handling dimethylmercury. Once a procedure requiring dimethylmercury has concluded, it's safe to transition back to living as a woman.

      • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @06:35AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @06:35AM (#527379)

        Oh I see the problem, there wasn't a rich white dude to pay for the award so it is obviously just another propaganda piece in the feminist war of persecution. Woe is the lowly male, left to impotently release his anger unto the abyss that we call "the internet" booweeoooweeoo

    • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday June 18, @06:11PM

      by Ethanol-fueled (2792) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 18, @06:11PM (#527543) Homepage Journal

      " The problem with us, humans, is we're a sack of chemicals [xkcd.com] "

      The problem with Randall Munroe is that he's a sanctimonious sack of shit. [xkcd.com]

  • (Score: 2) by KGIII on Sunday June 18, @03:22AM (1 child)

    by KGIII (5261) on Sunday June 18, @03:22AM (#527301) Journal

    When I was younger, and moss not even evolved, we heard this as being presented as valid science and policy:

    "The solution to pollution is dilution."

    Which, I suppose, is valid science but probably not very good policy. When I read a thread about this same link, there were a few comments that seemed to be still based on this. Their reasoning was that those developing nations weren't actually polluted enough.

    I could see a reasoned, if probably unethical, argument to support that claim. When I finished the thread, none of them had. Their reasoning was pretty much, "Fuck those dirty foreigners. I want cheap stuff." I do award them bonus points for their honesty. I'm also pretty sure society should have a serious discussion about maybe, just maybe, actually holding people accountable.

    Also, chip manufacturing requires some pretty nasty stuff. There is no known way around using said nasty stuff. Some increased automation might actually help. It isn't as if robots don't exist. Somewhere between full automation and full manual labor, there is probably a point where it's reasonably safe. I imagine that would take empathy and investment, which makes it rather unlikely.

    --
    "So long and thanks for all the fish."
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @05:30AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @05:30AM (#527357)

      I think dilution is still used to make sure some of the less harmful compounds are within limits of the city's sewer system.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @03:24AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @03:24AM (#527302)

    Shit, ain't that chip makin bullshit like, fully automacated yet? Do I gotta get the smartest man alive to solve all you dumb motherfuckers for me? Robots! Fucking use them, bitch.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @03:27AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @03:27AM (#527305)

      Release your conflict semiconductors

      • (Score: 5, Funny) by c0lo on Sunday June 18, @05:28AM

        by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 18, @05:28AM (#527356)

        Release your conflict(,) semiconductors

        They simply can't, they'll stay conflicted forever.
        They are doped from their birth and some of them come already biased.

  • (Score: 4, Informative) by dbe on Sunday June 18, @05:24AM (2 children)

    by dbe (1422) on Sunday June 18, @05:24AM (#527351)

    We are very much still affected by this pollution, one recent example is this story on Sunnyvale in silicon valley, where schools and habitations have been built on top of former chip factory, exposing everyone to TCE:
    https://ww2.kqed.org/futureofyou/2017/06/15/silicon-valleys-toxic-past-haunts-sunnyvale-neighborhood/ [kqed.org]

    -dbe

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by LoRdTAW on Sunday June 18, @03:20PM

      by LoRdTAW (3755) Subscriber Badge on Sunday June 18, @03:20PM (#527483) Journal

      It's scary how unconcerned industry was/is about disposing of toxic waste. On long island we have numerous superfund sites thanks to our strong aerospace industry that thrived until the wall fell. Plus plenty of other manufacturing industries that produced wastes. TCE a.k.a. Triclor, is a very popular solvent used in cleaning processes of many aerospace metal parts. TCE along with other toxic wastes were stored it in drums that eventually leaked and some dug a lagoon and dumped toxic waste right into them like the earth was a toilet. Think of the worst liquid waste and then dump it into an unlined pond. That's how they did it. Plus crooked waste disposal facilities who secretly buried toxic waste in dumps or land fills to make extra money. Some shops dumped into storm drains. They knew what they were doing but just didn't give a fuck because money.

      The worst site is called the Grumman/Navy Site. It's a ground water plume that has been spreading from the former manufacturing site. You cant drink the well water in the plume. The county has had to lay pipes to bring water into the homes near by in order to deliver safe drinking water and get them off well water. Think about that, the ground water is now full of toxic waste and undrinkable. The burden on the tax payer is incredible.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @05:28PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 18, @05:28PM (#527532)

      yum!

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