IBM Workers Face Increased Risk of Cancer

IBM Workers Face Increased Risk of Cancer

A study long suppressed by IBM has been published revealing elevated cancer rates likely caused by exposure to hazardous substances among its employees.

For several years, IBM fought to stave off the release of a study performed by Richard Clapp, a Boston University professor of environmental health. The study, published in Environmental Health, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, uses data IBM collected itself on death rates and causes among its workers from 1969 to 2001.

Clapp got access to the data when he was an expert witness who analyzed IBM’s “Corporate Mortality File” for California lawyers who were suing IBM on behalf of numerous workers at the San Jose disk-drive plant who developed cancer. They settled out of court before the trial.

According to Clapp, IBM stopped attempting to hamper the publication of the study earlier this year.

The Study Results

The study, dubbed “Mortality among U.S. employees of a large computer manufacturing company,” analyzed IBM’s death records of employees – both men and women – who had been working at IBM for five years.

Clapp compared the cancer death rate among IBM workers to that of the national average. He found that:

· Of the 27,272 men who died, 7,697 died of cancer – a rate “significantly greater” than the national average.
· Of the 4,669 women who died, 1,667 died of cancer – also higher than to be expected based on the national average.
· In men, rates of cancers of the brain, digestive organs, kidneys, and central nervous system were particularly high.
· In women, breast, genital, lung, and brain and nervous system cancer rates were all higher than the national average.
· There were also a disproportionate number of deaths due to Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Likely Causes

Clapp noted in his report that employees in the computer manufacturing industry are routinely exposed to chemicals, solvents, and substances that have been linked with cancer including arsenic, photoresist, nickel, and chromium. Employees are also exposed to ultraviolet light, and x-ray radiation.

IBM’s data did not include information about which workers may have been exposed to which chemicals.

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