How safe are clean rooms?

Sometime in the next month or two, the jury in the IBM toxics trial will render a verdict. But despite exhaustive testimony from a battalion of scientists, a fundamental question will go unanswered: Do the hundreds of thousands of people who have worked in computer industry clean rooms since the 1960s face a higher risk of developing cancer?

After two decades of controversy over clean room safety, the state of the science about the health risks of exposure to toxic chemicals used in computer manufacturing remains sketchy.

A few small-scale studies have been done over the years. But efforts to conduct a comprehensive review of death and disease rates for clean room workers have been stymied or are proceeding in fits and starts.

Part of the problem lies with the industry's well-founded fear of litigation and a reluctance to participate in research that could prove costly in the courtroom, scientists said. Then there are the not-inconsiderable logistical hurdles of tracking down tens of thousands of former clean room employees, their medical records and work histories.

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News source: Silicon Valley.com

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