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IBM has been accused of running an unsafe workplace which resulted in an unnaturally high incidence of disease among its workers in a series of hotly contested lawsuits filed recently in the US.

Almost 200 former and current employees (or their families) are parties to the suits, which allege that the computing giant did nothing to safeguard the safety of workers handling chemicals known to be hazardous to people since the mid-1980s, until ten years later - well into the 90s.

In that ten-year period, IBM workers were subject to various forms of cancer or their children were born with birth defects at a higher frequency than the general population, the lawsuits allege.

The allegedly dangerous chemicals IBM workers were exposed to were used in semiconductor and disk drive manufacturing in its East Fishkill plant and in other manufacturing facilities across the US.

Companies that supplied chemicals to IBM are also named as defendants in the suits.

IBM denies the claims, which it says are without scientific foundation.

The New York Times reports that the lawsuits are being closely watched by the wider semiconductor industry, whose safety record has been spotlighted by the case. ®

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