Fall/ Winter 2001


This series comes out of a year-long research effort by El Andar magazine.

The series was supported in part by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, Washington, DC.

Special thanks to Korey Capozza and the Center for Investigative Reporting, San Francisco, and KQED.


Siilcon Shame is a month-long web series published in January, 2002, by El Andar. Articles and information can also be found in El Andar magazine's Fall/Winter 2001 issues.

Table of Contents


In the "Valley of the Heart's Delight," things have gone awry. Toxic spills, contaminated neighborhoods and dangerous chemicals aren't words we usually hear when there's talk of Silicon Valley.

But the industry with the immaculate image, for years proclaimed as the antithesis to East Coast factories churning out thick clouds of smog, isn't as clean as some of its advocates would have us believe. On average, the production of every eight-inch wafer that goes into making microchips uses twenty-seven pounds of chemicals and creates nine pounds of hazardous waste. Workers, mostly women and minorities, are getting sick and pointing to the clean rooms, the birth place of the chip, as the source of their illness.

That's just one of the many health and environmental issues plaguing Latinos and the working class in Silicon Valley. Following paper trails and toxic fumes, the reporters for this series have documented how:

• The semiconductor industry has refused to cooperate with proposed EPA studies to examine cancer risks in clean rooms.

IBM misled its workers about the findings of a brain cancer study.

55,000 residents near two chemical plants in the valley live under the threat of accidental poisoning every day.

Terrorism concerns have made basic information about the threat of chemical accidents nearly impossible to obtain.

Half of the Valley's toxic emissions are released in low-income neighborhoods — none in the highest income areas.

"Brownfields" — neglected urban lots with unknown levels of contamination — are being used for high-density housing.

Silicon Shame

Photo Gallery
Infographics and Maps
More Web Resources

Week 1,
January 7, 2002
Minding the Neighbor's Business
by Hillary Cargo

Chemical Lobbies, the Terrorist Threat and Your Right to Know
by Julia R

Week 2
The Clean Room Paradox
by Karina Ioffee

High-Tech Home Workers
by Karina Ioffee

Week 3
The Poisoned Neighborhood
by Catherine T. Worth

On Questionable Grounds: The Brownfields Real Estate Boom
by Karina Ioffee

Phillip Gonzales lives near Matheson Gas, a high-tech supply company in Newark, Calif. that has had three chemical accidents in three years. Photo, Paul Myers, El Andar.

© 2001-2002, El Andar Magazine