National Semiconductor Greenock

January 3, 2022
Greenock Revisited



Britain: Nat Semi cancer toll is “tip of the iceberg”

More than 70 cancer deaths at the National Semiconductor plant in Greenock, Scotland, could be the tip of the iceberg, health experts have warned. Experts have identified several types of cancer, including brain and breast tumours, which are four to five times higher than normal.

Jim McCourt of Phase Two, a support group for Nat Semi workers, said: “This could be potentially the tip of the iceberg. Former employees and their survivors should be very concerned.”

An open letter signed by an international team of medical experts says they are worried about proposed new research into the factory. The experts warn that the government's Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which is carrying out the investigation, is coming under “undue political pressure to obtain equivocal or negative results.” The planned follow-up study to a 2001 report is already a year behind schedule and has yet to start.

Professor Andrew Watterson of the University of Stirling is one of the six international experts who signed the letter, complaining about a plan to scale down the scope of the investigation to just 200 out of thousands of potentially affected workers. He said big studies are better because they pick up any adverse health effects of chemicals.

“Employees should be concerned we won't apparently see large, preferably international studies, of the industry in the foreseeable future, ” he said: “Recent US studies indicate continued cause for concern about the industry and have not given it a clean bill of health. Small studies may show no problem when there may be a problem and lead to complacency or inaction.”

Professor Watterson added: “We have seriously under-estimated or downplayed the contribution that work-caused and work-related health plays in Scotland. If we don't look, we won't find. If we don't look properly, then we may miss serious occupational health problems.”

US case raises microchip cancer compensation hopes
Microchip workers in Scotland hope a lawsuit against electronics company IBM in the United States could strengthen their case for compensation. Workers from the National Semiconductor plant in Greenock have already opened compensation claims and believe that the IBM case could strengthen their hand. Campaigning group Phase Two represents 37 former workers at the plant who are pursuing damages claims for cancer and other health problems. Spokesperson Jim McCourt believes the case in California could be vital for Scottish claims. 'It will be ground-breaking stuff, there's never been a semiconductor company in court at any time for something of this magnitude, ' he said. 'If the case is a success then it will be another weapon that Phase Two can use, I don't want to raise the group's hopes too much, but it will take us a lot further forward if the cases come out in our favour.' In 2001, higher than average rates of cancer were found among workers and former employees at the National Semiconductor plant in a study by the HSE.

Silicon Glen safety record 'worst in UK'
Scotland’s high-tech microelectronics companies have broken safety rules far more often than their counterparts in England and Wales, an investigation has revealed. Four Scottish semiconductor manufacturers were guilty of 28 breaches of the regulations meant to protect the health and safety of workers, reports the Sunday Herald. This compares to just two breaches by one manufacturer south of the border. The breaches were found by HSE inspectors. They include failing to control exposure to toxic fumes from acids and cancer-causing chemicals, and inadequate maintenance and training. The revelations have been greeted with anger by trade unionists, who accuse semiconductor companies of having a 'grim' safety record. 'Workers involuntarily breathe contaminated air, which, like asbestos, could give them diseases in later life, ' said Jim McCourt of safety campaign group Phase 2. 'I find it deeply disturbing that every time regulators look for problems in this industry, they find them. It is an industry which risks workers’ lives for profit in pursuit of production at all costs.'

US firm investigated by police for spying on safety activist
A US multinational microchip maker is being investigated by police for allegedly spying on a Scottish union safety activist. After hearing reports that women workers at the National Semiconductor microchip plant in Greenock were suffering cancers, fertility problems, reproductive...

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