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Decreased white blood cell counts in semiconductor manufacturing workers in Taiwan
  1. J-C J Luo1,2,
  2. L L Hsieh1,
  3. M J W Chang1,
  4. K-H Hsu3
  1. 1Department of Public Health, Chang Gung University, 259 Wen-Hwa 1st Road, Kwei-Shan, Tao-Yuan, Taiwan
  2. 2Department of Family Medicine, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, Tao-Yuan, Taiwan
  3. 3Laboratory for Epidemiology, Department of Health Care Management, Chang Gung University, Tao-Yuan, Taiwan
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr K-H Hsu, Laboratory for Epidemiology, Department of Health Care Management, Chang Gung University, Tao-Yuan, Taiwan;


Objectives: To assess the systematic health effects on the liver, kidney, and haematological function tests of workers in semiconductors in Taiwan.

Methods: 926 workers of a semiconductor plant in Taiwan in July 1995 were investigated. Complete blood tests including liver, kidney, and haematological functions were available from 227 workers.

Results: There was a significantly lower mean (SD) white blood cell (WBC) count in male workers of photolithography (5870 (1190)/mm3, p=0.003) and implantation (6190 (1150)/mm3, p=0.018) than that of male control workers (7350 (1660)/mm3). There was a significantly higher prevalence of leukopenia in male photolithography workers (6 of 20; 30%) than in male control workers (1 of 18; 5.6%), the crude odds ratio (OR) was 7.3 (95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1 to 55.6), and the multivariate adjusted OR was 8.1 (95% CI 0.83 to 78.3). The tests for serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT), serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (SGPT), γ glutamyl transferase (RGT), and creatinine were not significant among male workers. Female workers in photolithography had abnormal SGPT and RGT of borderline significance, the multivariate adjusted ORs were 9.6 (95% CI 0.86 to 107) and 6.35 (95% CI 0.53 to 75.8), respectively.

Conclusions: This study suggests that leukopenia is a potential health effect in male fabrication workers of the semiconductor industry. The tasks of the process, maintenance, and equipment engineers which consisted mostly of men put them at risk for intermittent short term peak exposure to glycol ethers, ionising radiation, arsenic, or other toxins. The findings of this medical surveillance are significant; however, a further investigation of the aetiological factors and the subsequent health effects is necessary.

  • semiconductor
  • white blood cell counts
  • medical surveillance
  • WBC, white blood cell
  • SGOT, serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase
  • SGPT, serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase
  • RGT, γ glutamyl transferase
  • RF radiation, radio frequency radiation
  • ELF-MF, extremely low frequency-medium frequency
  • BMI, body mass index
  • HBsAg, hepatitis B surface antigen status
  • PEL, permissible exposure limit

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