Used in microchip manufacturing, “clean room” environments offered a no-dust atmosphere that protected delicate semiconductor products from any damaging contamination. Yet, employees involved in chip production were minimally protected against dangerous and life-threatening chemicals in the clean room workplace. These chemicals may have caused catastrophic birth defects in children born to employees exposed to the chemicals before or during pregnancy.
Clean Room Birth Defects Lawsuit Review: If you or somebody you know has a child that has been diagnosed with a birth defect related to working in a clean room environment, you should contact our lawyers immediately. Consultations are always free. Please use our confidential email contact form or call toll free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600.
What Birth Defects are Linked to Clean Room Environments?
The following birth defects have been found in children born to parents who worked in a clean room environment:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Vision problems
- Speech problems
- Cognitive impairment
- Missing limb
- Skeletal deformities
- Spontaneous abortion
- Cleft lip and cleft palate
- Neural tube defects
- Heart defects
Clean Room Birth Defects Overview
“Clean rooms” are the environments used to manufacture computer microchips. They are called clean rooms because they are designed to keep dust particles away from delicate semiconductor products. Since even the smallest amount of dust can ruin an expensive semiconductor, filtered air is re-circulated through vents while workers wear protective clothing from head to toe, preventing the chips from any contamination.
Yet, the clean room atmosphere is not clean of dangerous chemicals. In fact, any large semiconductor facility uses several thousand potentially-dangerous and even deadly chemicals that can cause serious side effects and even cancer in workers. With the re-circulation of air to keep the chips uncontaminated, workers are potentially exposed to re-circulated chemicals in the room.
Specifically, ethylene-based glycol ethers and acetates are used as solvents in the process of chip creation, in which a silicon wafer is imprinted and etched with various acids and solvents to create a 3-D pattern that will eventually carry the electric signals through a maze of microscopic wires.
Research suggests glycol ethers cause birth defects in babies born to women exposed to them during pregnancy. Among other serious birth defects, glycol ethers elevated miscarriage rates among women at two IBM semiconductor plants in the mid-90s.
While there was strong enough research to prompt a phase out of the chemicals in the 90s, employees who worked in clean rooms between the late-70s and late-90s may have been exposed.
In lawsuits filed against companies that used clean rooms, there have been documents suggesting big chip making companies knew about the possible connection between clean rooms, glycol ether and health risks to employee’s children. Over 50 lawsuits have been filed in New York on behalf of children of IBM workers who claim that chemical exposures during or before pregnancies caused catastrophic birth defects.
If you or somebody you know worked in a clean room environment and gave birth to a baby with serious birth defects, you may want to contact a clean room lawyer or attorney with our firm to discuss the potential for a clean room lawsuit.
Semiconductor Chip Manufacturers
Prominent semiconductor manufacturers include:
- National Semiconductor
- Digital (compaq)
- Texas Instruments
- Renaissance Microsystems
- Sematech AT&T
- Micron Technology
- Advanced Micro Devices
Clean Room Birth Defect Lawsuits
The first “clean room” birth defects lawsuit went to court in 1996, when Faye Calton and Michael Rufng sued IBM, asking for $40 million in damages after their son Zachary was born with severe skeletal deformities. Both Calton and Rufng worked in clean rooms in IBM’s East Fishkill plant.
The case was settled before going to trial for an undisclosed amount.
At the time, IBM issued a statement saying it “firmly believes, based upon state-of-the-art science, that it had no liability in this case and that it did not act wrongfully in any manner.”
Since then, more lawsuits have been filed against IBM and other semiconductor manufacturers in New York, Arizona and California.
In Tempe, Arizona, both of Bob and Janice Numkena’s daughters were born with severe birth defects. Their youngest daughter, Angela, suffers from Cerebral Palsy and requires round-the-clock care. Additionally, Rosa and Henry Arballo’s son Danny was born with epilepsy, and severe vision and speech problems.
Both Janice Numkena and Rosa Arballo worked in Motorola’s clean room.
Glycol Ethers and Clean Rooms
In the early 1980s, scientific research suggested that glycol ethers, chemicals used as solvents (a liquid that dissolves other substances) in the semiconductor industry, were causing reproductive problems in laboratory animals. In 1981, Union Carbide, the maker of glycol ether, issued a warning about possible miscarriages and birth defects. In 1982, the California Department of Health Services also issued a hazard alert that the chemical caused birth defects in test animals.
A 1989 study sponsored by the Semiconductor Industry Associations showed semiconductor workers exposed to chemicals suffered miscarriages twice as frequently as the expected rate.
While glycol ethers were largely phased out in the mid-1990s, other chemicals linked to reproductive health problems include xylene, trichloroethylene, phenols, and acetone still remain in use.
Is there a time limit in filing a clean room birth defects lawsuit?
Although we encourage all our potential clients to take great care in selecting their clean room birth defects lawyer, it is important that you understand that time is of the essence. The applicable statute of limitations in your state may time bar your claim. Furthermore, we are unable to provide you with legal advice without first evaluating your potential case. Accordingly, please take the time now to contact us by using the confidential email contact form below or by calling us toll free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600.
We hope we will be able to assist you with your potential clean room birth defects lawsuit and look forward to speaking with you.
Attention Lawyers: Schmidt & Clark, LLP considers a referral from another lawyer to be one of the greatest compliments. Our law firm has built a reputation for success and accepts a number of case referrals on a regular basis. We do not publish prior verdicts or settlements on our website. If you would like to refer us a case or for us to send you a profile of prior award judgments or average referral fees, please fill out the form below.