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Cancer deaths

IBM computer factory workers show markedly increased cancer death rates, says researcher

Wednesday, October 25, 2006 by: Jerome Douglas
Tags: cancer deaths, IBM, computer manufacturers

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(NewsTarget) Workers involved in the manufacture of computer parts have death rates that are significantly higher than the general population, according to a study published by Environmental Health.

The study looked at data on the causes of death of around 31,000 former employees of global computer company IBM who had died between 1969 and 2001. The study was performed by Richard Clapp, a professor of environmental health at Boston University’s School of Public Health.

The study revealed that of the 27,272 men who died, there were more than 7,600 deaths from cancer, which was significantly higher than 7,200 expected, according to national averages. The study also revealed that of about 4,600 women whose data was studied, more than 1,600 had died of cancer, which was also higher than the 1,400 expected.

Clapp emphasized that the study he released was the largest of its kind, and that many of the workers had been exposed to unusual levels of radiation, as well as solvents and chemicals while working at IBM.

In addition to the higher rates of cancer, Clapp's report identified higher rates of specific cancers as well. There were also higher death counts from multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease in the IBM former-employee population that was studied.

Clapp noted that it was not possible to identify which workers had been exposed to which chemicals. The report also did not consider lifestyle details of the workers who were studied, including those who smoked or had made other lifestyle choices that may have contributed to their deaths.

IBM has long sought to suppress publication of the figures, which Clapp gained access to as an expert witness in recent litigation filed against IBM. As a result of the publication, IBM has dismissed the results of Clapp's findings, claiming the data is inconclusive and Clapp's methodology is flawed.

IBM went on to say that other studies have shown that its workers have lower mortality and cancer rates than the general population.

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