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The EPA does have regulations in effect that are aimed toward the purpose of controlling the levels ofcontaminants released and minimizing human and environmental exposure to them. However, current regulations do not mandate thatAmerican companies report on offshore manufacturing. Therefore, even as media coverage and general awareness increase, companiescan simply outsource more and more of their fabrication facilities to, for example, Southeast Asia. Some companies, in fact, have begun to do so, and there have even already been studies conductedon the health issues of workers in the electronics and semiconductor industries of Singapore and Malaysia [13].

Thus, changes in how and where semiconductor firms manufacture chips currently outstrip the present ability ofthe United States government and media institutions to track and monitor their potential threats to humans and the environment. Ifthis situation is to change for the better in the near future, it is clear that radical reforms will need to take place on a numberof different levels. However, the who, what, when, where, and why, so to speak, of that reform remains to be addressed.

Discussion questions

  • How many electronics products do you use on a day-to-day basis? How many of these products contain semiconductors?
  • Who do you think is ultimately responsible for initiating reform? The government? The corporation? The consumer?
  • Do you think that the health and environmental incidents related to semiconductor manufacturing will remain isolatedincidents? Or do you think that these incidents will become epidemic in the future?
  • Do you think that nanotechnology will help the problem or make the problem worse?

Endnotes

  1. M. Kazmierczak and J. James. Industry Data&Publications: U.S. High-Tech Exports, 2000-2004. 16 Nov. 2004. American Electronics Association. 17 Oct. 2005<http://www.aeanet.org/Publications/idjl_ushightechexports1204.asp>.
  2. J. Turley, The Essential Guide to Semiconductors. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference, 2003.
  3. J. Turley, The Essential Guide to Semiconductors. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Professional Technical Reference, 2003. From Prentice Hall
  4. IBM Research Nanotechnology Homepage. IBM. 16 Oct. 2005<http://domino.research.ibm.com/comm/research.nsf/pages/r.nanotech.html>.
  5. R. Chepesiuk, “Where the Chips Fall: Environmental Health in the Semiconductor Industry.” EnvironmentalHealth Perspectives 107 (1999): 452-457.
  6. Richards, “Industry Challenge: Computer-Chip Plants Aren’t as Safe And Clean As Billed, Some Say –Women at Scottish Factory Tell of Spills and Fumes, Face Host of Medical Ills – Firms Won’t Help Do a Study.” Wall Street Journal 5Oct. 1998, eastern ed.: A1.
  7. A. Heavens, Chip Plants Take Heat For Toxics. 14 Jan. 2003. Wired News. 13 Oct. 2005,<http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,57191,00.html>
  8. M. Merchant, Maine Semiconductor Plant Fined For Hazardous Waste Violations. Boston: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Press Office, 2001.
  9. P. Dunn, Cleanliness Outside, Some Issues Outside. 2 Oct. 2000. The Foundation for American Communications. 13 Oct. 2005<http://www.facsnet.org/tools/sci_tech/tech/community/environ2.php3>
  10. J. Mazurek, Making Microchips: Policy, Globalization, and Economic Restructuring in the Semiconductor Industry. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1999.
  11. C. Hayhurst, “Toxic Technology: Electronics and the Silicon Valley.” E: the Environmental Magazine May-Jun. 1997: 4.
  12. B. Pimentel, “The Valley’s Toxic History.” San Francisco Chronicle 30 Jan. 2004, final ed.: B1.
  13. V. Lin, Health, Women’s Work, and Industrialization: Semiconductor Workers in Singapore and Malaysia. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1991.

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