Greenpeace adds to Samsung cancer pressure

BROKEN PROMISE  Samsung is being urged to accept responsibility for occupational cancers. But Greenpeace says it has reneged on a promise to eliminate cancer-causing chemicals.

CANCER CAUSE Samsung is being urged to accept responsibility for work cancers. But Greenpeace says it has reneged on a promise to eliminate cancer-causing chemicals.

A global electronics giant embroiled in an occupational cancer scandal has been accused by Greenpeace of reneging on a promise to phase out toxic chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases.

This week climbers from the environmental group scaled the Benelux headquarters of the Korean multinational Samsung, sticking the message “Samsung = Broken Promises” in giant letters onto the front of the building.  

In June 2004, Samsung was the first company to publicly commit to eliminate PVC – a well-established cause of occupational cancers – and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) from new models of all its products.

In 2006 Samsung committed to phasing out BFRs from its products by the start of 2010 and in 2007 it committed to a deadline of end 2010 for the phase out of PVC. Both moves saw the company gain points and position on Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics.

Greenpeace says Samsung  is now “betraying its customers trust” in only admitted weeks before it was due to deliver new greener products that it would fail and break its promise. The latest version of the Guide penalises Samsung for this delay. Unless the company takes urgent action to meet its commitments, says Greenpeace, it will suffer a further penalty in the next edition – the first company ever to do so.

“Samsung’s promises are proving to be as thin as its TVs, as it loses face and ground to competitors such as Apple, HP, Nokia and Sony Ericsson who have long delivered products free of these hazardous substances, proving that this can be done,” said Greenpeace International Electronics campaigner Iza Kruszewska.

“If Samsung is serious about its green intentions, it needs to play catch up with competitors like Nokia and Sony Ericsson and Apple. People are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of what they buy; Samsung needs to understand, what is good for human health, and for the environment is also good for the company’s bottom line.”

A report last month from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) found that unless urgent action is taken, the e-waste crisis is set to worsen dramatically in developing countries.

Union and safety campaigners this year warned a cancer cluster is affecting young workers exposed to toxic chemicals at Samsung in Korea. A petition calling for Samsung to accept responsibility, compensate victims and remedy the health and safety problems is being circulated worldwide.

Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor industry (SHARPs), the Korean Metal Workers’ Union (KMWU), Asian Network for the Rights Of Occupational Accident Victims (ANROAV) and International Campaign for Responsible Technology (ICRT) say: “Samsung denies all responsibility, and the Korean government has taken its side by denying compensation and even arresting and detaining the victims’ lawyer!”

In addition to the demands for justice for cancer victims and improvements in safety standards, the campaigners say Samsung Electronics “must disclose to the workers and the public the truth about the hazards of working in the semiconductor industry” and “must stop suppressing workers in their struggles for a safe and fair workplace.”

 Sign the SHARPs petition urging Samsung to act on occupational cancer risks.  
Global Unions cancer campaign.

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