'No increased cancer risk' for Greenock plant staff

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Lung cancer
Image caption,
The HSE said in 2005 that higher than expected levels of cancer had been found in female employees

Workers at a Scottish semiconductor plant are not at increased risk of developing occupational cancers, new research has suggested.

The Health and Safety Executive said long-held concerns about occupational cancer at the National Semiconductors UK factory in Greenock were unfounded.

Campaigners said they were disgusted at the report and branded it a "cover-up".

Semiconductors are used in radios and computers but manufacturing involves radiation and dangerous chemicals.

Fears of a cancer link at the plant were first raised in the late 1990s. In 2001, the HSE revealed higher than expected levels of lung, stomach and breast cancer in women and brain cancer in men who worked at the plant.

'Robust research'

However, its study did not look at other factors such as diet and smoking.

The latest study, carried out jointly with the Institute of Occupational Medicine, said the number of employees with cancer was within the range expected for a workforce of a similar age and background.

HSE chief medical adviser Dr John Osman said: "While we cannot use this type of research to prove that any workplace is completely safe, I am satisfied the findings do not indicate that NSUK staff face an increased risk of developing occupational cancer.

"This is an independent, robust piece of scientific research and we have taken our responsibilities to the workforce very seriously.

"The research does not establish a link between cancer and employment at NSUK."

Dr Osman added: "I hope both present and former employees will find some comfort in these results.

"They have waited patiently to discover the outcome of this research and I hope this report offers some clarity and reassurance."

No evidence

In light of the findings, HSE said there were no plans for further research at the plant, although it will continue to monitor health and safety in the semiconductor manufacturing industry.

Grace Morrison, secretary of the semiconductor workers support group, Phase 2, said the work done by the HSE did show cause for concern.

Commenting on the latest report, Ms Morrison, who worked at the Greenock plant for 16 years, told BBC Scotland: "From what we've been able to see, I'm absolutely disgusted and I would go as far as to say it was a cover-up."

She added: "It's not a coincidence, too many people got ill there - young, healthy people who shouldn't be getting those illnesses."

Meanwhile, a much larger study of 90,000 employees in the semiconductor industry has been carried out.

It found no evidence of a link between the manufacture of electronic components and cancer.

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