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IPEN

A Toxics-Free Future

Electronic products

Stories from women working at two Samsung factories in Vietnam are documented in a report by the  Hanoi-based Research Center for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED) and IPEN. The unprecedented study of 45 workers reports frequent fainting, dizziness, miscarriages, standing for eight-to-twelve hours, and alternating day/night shift work. This study is important because the lives and rights of workers in the electronics industry in Vietnam have been neglected in research and policy.

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(Göteborg, Sweden) In an unprecedented study on the experiences of women working at two Samsung factories in Vietnam, a report released this week documents health and workplace violations by the electronics industry giant. The workers’ experiences of frequent fainting, dizziness, miscarriages, standing for eight-to-twelve hours, and alternating day/night shift work are documented in a report released this week by the Hanoi-based Research Center for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED) and IPEN, a global network of environment and health NGOs working to reduce harmful chemicals. 

Samsung dominates the global phone market as well as the electronics sector and economy of Vietnam, where 50% of its smart phones are produced. The electronics sector is a significant area of growth for Vietnam, as electronics exports outpace other exports. However, Vietnam has no labor codes specifically protecting the health of electronics industry workers, who are overwhelmingly women.

The study combines industrial sector research and qualitative narratives of 45 workers, and is the first of its kind in Vietnam to shed light on the experiences of the predominantly female electronics industry workers. Because Samsung is notoriously secretive, it offers a rare glimpse into life on the Samsung factory floor. 

The National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea has paid meaningful attention to the hazardous conditions in the semi-conductor industry by hosting Supporters of Health and Rights of People in the Semi-Conductor Industry (SHARPs) and IPEN for a premiere of the new documentary film, "Stories from the Clean Room.” In preparation for the film premiere, IPEN Senior Science and Technical Advisor Joseph DiGangi, PhD wrote an article that appeared in the Korean media outlets OhMyNews and MediaToday. The main purpose of the article was to introduce the international concern about toxic exposure and occupational health and safety that has been generated by the deaths and grave illnesses of former Samsung workers.

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Geneva: Today at the Stockholm Convention 8th Conference of the Parties (COP8), governments rushed thru decisions to list two toxic chemicals, but provided extraordinary loopholes that permit all uses of them. The chemicals are DecaBDE, a flame retardant commonly found in electronic waste, and SCCPs, an industrial chemical used in metal working and as a flame retardant in plastics.1 Both chemicals are persistent, highly toxic, travel long distances and build up in the food chain. Recent IPEN studies found both substances widely present in children’s toys.2

“Delegates made a mockery of the theme of the meeting, “A Future Detoxified,” said Dr. Mariann Lloyd-Smith, IPEN Sr. Advisor. “Today’s decisions guarantee harmful worker exposures, poisonous children’s toys, contaminated recycling streams, and more waste dumping. The real theme of the meeting seems to be “A Future De-Toxified.”

한국어 IPEN has joined with trade unions and public interest organizations to endorse a letter from Supporters of Health and Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry (SHARPS) to Mr. Jae-yong Lee, the heir apparent of Samsung Electronics. The letter urges Mr. Lee to initiate a new dialogue with SHARPS about his company’s occupational disease victims. As of September 2016, SHARPS has profiled 223 Samsung Electronics employees who developed a variety of serious diseases including leukemia, brain tumors, and multiple sclerosis. Of the 223 victims, 76 have died.
 
A recent AP investigation outlined how Samsung has requested government authorities to withhold critical information from sick workers about chemical exposures. The Samsung issue is occurring during a global effort to address hazardous substances within electronics as a global emerging policy issue under the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management.
 

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