Reproductive hazards still persist in the microelectronics industry: Increased risk of spontaneous abortion and menstrual aberration among female workers in the microelectronics industry in South Korea

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Despite the global expansion of supply chains and changes to the production process, few studies since the mid-1990 s and 2000s have examined reproductive risks of the microelectronics industry; we examined the reproductive risks among female microelectronics workers in South Korea. METHODS: Based on claim data from the National Health Insurance (2008-2012), we estimated age-specific rates of spontaneous abortion (SAB) and menstrual aberration (MA) among women aged 20 to 39 years. We compared data between microelectronics workers and three different control groups: economically inactive women, the working population as a whole, and workers employed in the bank industry. For an effect measure, age-stratified relative risks (RRs) were estimated. RESULTS: Female workers in the microelectronics industry showed significantly higher risk for SAB and MA compared to control groups. The RRs for SAB with reference to economically inactive women, working population, and bank workers in their twenties were 1.57, 1.40, and 1.37, respectively, and the RRs for MA among females in their twenties were 1.54, 1.38, and 1.48, respectively. For women in their thirties, RRs for SAB were 1.58, 1.67, and 1.13, and those for MA were 1.25, 1.35, and 1.23 compared to the three control populations, respectively. All RRs were statistically significant at a level of 0.05, except for the SAB case comparison with bank workers in their thirties. CONCLUSIONS: Despite technical innovations and health and safety measures, female workers in microelectronics industry in South Korea have high rates of SAB and MA, suggesting continued exposure to reproductive hazards. Further etiologic studies based on primary data collection and careful surveillance are required to confirm these results.

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Kim, I., Kim, M. H., & Lim, S. (2015). Reproductive hazards still persist in the microelectronics industry: Increased risk of spontaneous abortion and menstrual aberration among female workers in the microelectronics industry in South Korea. PLoS ONE, 10(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0123679

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