Although most new 'high tech' industrial processes are developed in industrialized countries, many of these technologies are eventually transferred to the industrializing countries. Many of these new technologies are associated with the use of respiratory toxins. However, there has been little study of acute or chronic health effects of work in these industries. The semiconductor industry illustrates many of these issues. The past decade has seen increasing globalization of semiconductor manufacturing. Semiconductor manufacturing uses many chemicals with extremely high respiratory toxicity, including gases such as arsine and phosphine, strong acids and bases, dopants and photoactive chemicals. In semiconductor manufacturing, gases and chemicals are strictly controlled, but little is known about the occurrence of respiratory symptoms or disease in this industry. Potential acute respiratory effects of these exposures include mucous membrane irritation, tracheobronchitis, pulmonary edema and death. Chronic effects may include airway sensitization and possibly respiratory cancer. Movement of 'high tech' industries to less industrialized countries may not be accompanied by the same degree of attention to the control of workplace exposures. The shortage of adequately trained health and safety personnel, greater attention to safety than to health issues, and the unorganized and unskilled workforce in industrializing countries may exacerbate this situation. More research is needed on the health effects of exposures in rapidly changing industries such as semiconductor manufacturing, and the results of this research must be communicated and safe practices implemented worldwide.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine