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Where’s the Harm – Component Manufacturing

Toxic materials: A complex combination of toxic materials is used in electronics manufacturing, including chlorinated and brominated substances, photoactive chemicals, toxic gases, acids, solvents, heavy metals, plastics, and plastic additives, many of which impose a heavy burden on the environment and worker health.[i]

Workers involved in the manufacturing of electronic products can be exposed to over a thousand chemicals. Many of the compounds used are linked to increased rates of cancer, reproductive damage, birth defects, and serious illnesses.

Some of the toxic materials used in semiconductor manufacturing:

Chemical How it’s used in manufacturing process Health problems linked to exposure
Acetone Chemical-mechanical polishing of silicon wafers Nose, throat, lung, and eye irritation, damage to the skin, confusion, unconsciousness, possible coma
Arsenic Increases conductivity of semiconductor material Nausea, delirium, vomiting, dyspepsia, diarrhea, decrease in erythrocyte and leukocyte production, abnormal heart rhythm, blood vessel damage, extensive tissue damage to nerves, stomach, intestine, and skin, known human carcinogen for lung cancer
Acetone Chemical-mechanical polishing of silicon wafers Nose, throat, lung, and eye irritation, damage to the skin, confusion, unconsciousness, possible coma
Arsine Chemical vapor deposition Headache, malaise, weakness, vertigo, dyspnea, nausea, abdominal and back pain, jaundice, peripheral neuropathy, anemia
Benzene Photoelectrochemical etching Damage to bone marrow, anemia, excessive bleeding, immune system effects, increased chance of infection, reproductive effects, known human carcinogen for leukemia
Cadmium Creates “holes” in silicon lattice to create effect of
positive charge
Damage to lungs, renal dysfunction, immediate hepatic injury, bone defects, hypertension, reproductive toxicity, teratogenicity, known human carcinogen for lung and prostate cancer
Hydrochloric acid Photoelectrochemical etching Highly corrosive, severe eye and skin burns, conjunctivitis, dermatitis, respiratory irritation
Lead Electroplated soldering Damage to renal, reproductive, and immune systems, spontaneous abortion, premature birth, low birth weight, learning deficits in children, anemia, memory effects, dementia, decreased reaction time, decreased mental ability
Methyl chloroform Washing Headache, central nervous system depression, poor equilibrium, eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation, cardiac arrhythmia
Toluene Chemical vapor deposition Weakness, confusion, memory loss, nausea, permanent damage to brain, speech, vision, and hearing problems, loss of muscle control, poor balance, neurological problems and retardation of growth in children, suspected human carcinogen for lung and liver cancer
Trichloroethylene Washing Irritation of skin, eyes, and respiratory tract, dizziness, drowsiness, speech and hearing impairment, kidney disease, blood disorders, stroke, diabetes, suspected human carcinogen for renal cancer

Source: The Environmental Impact of the Manufacturing of Semiconductors (see below)

Resources on Semiconductor Manufacturing Impacts

The Environmental Impact of the Manufacturing of Semiconductors

Module by: Jason Holden, Christopher Kelty, Rice University, 2005.

Summary:  This module gives a brief general overview of semiconductor manufacturing and some of the components and processes used to produce them that can potentially cause harm to humans or the environment.

Excerpts:
“Semiconductors seem to be anywhere and everywhere throughout our everyday lives, yet it is surprising how little most people know  about how they actually work or about the potentially devastating effects their manufacturing can have on the environment and human health.”

“Industrial hygiene has always been an issue in the semiconductor industry. Many of the chemicals involved in the manufacturing process of semiconductors are known human carcinogens or pose some other serious health risk if not contained properly.”

 


[i]Byster, Leslie A. and Ted Smith.Chapter 18: The Electronics Production Life Cycle: From Toxics to Sustainability: Getting Off the Toxic Treadmill.

Acetone Chemical-mechanical polishing of silicon wafers Nose, throat, lung, and eye irritation, damage to the skin,
confusion, unconsciousness, possible coma