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Samsung pledges $85M to help cancer-stricken workers

The electronics giant will also use the cancer fund to improve worker safety at its manufacturing facilities around the world.

Samsung is trying to improve its standing with workers and their families over cancer charges related to its processors. Samsung

Samsung has vowed to create a fund to help workers who have faced health issues related to the production of its processors, the company announced on Monday.

Samsung will create a 100 million Korean won ($85.8 million) fund to support workers or families of those who were diagnosed with cancer after working in its manufacturing facilities. The fund, which was announced in a statement on Monday, according to Reuters, will also be used to improve worker safety at its manufacturing facilities around the world. It's unclear how the payments will be made.

Samsung did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The fund is the latest step by Samsung to acknowledge the impact manufacturing its processors may have on the health of its workers. In May 2014, the company issued a statement of apology to cancer-stricken employees and acknowledged that it could have done more to protect and care for workers.

"Some of Samsung's former employees have passed away after contracting leukemia or are coping with difficult-to-treat diseases after having worked at our manufacturing facility," a Samsung spokesperson said at the time. "We could have been more diligent in addressing the hardship and sorrow of former employees and the families of the deceased...We will make due compensation for former employees battling illness and the families of the deceased."

While Samsung has now made good on that promise, the company has not always been willing to believe that its semiconductor manufacturing plants could be causing cancer among workers. Indeed, just three years ago, Samsung referenced a study it commissioned on working conditions in its manufacturing facilities that found them to be safe and in no way to blame for employees developing cancer. The argument followed a 2011 ruling in a Korean court that determined the cancers could have been caused by unsafe working conditions.

Samsung, which employs 38,800 people in its Korean manufacturing facilities and 10,700 in other countries around the world, makes a wide range of semiconductors at its plants, including those bundled in Apple's line of iPhones and iPads. The company's processors are also found in some of its own smartphones and other products. Samsung's manufacturing arm makes memory and solid-state storage drives, as well.

Manufacturing processors has long been a somewhat dangerous business. As processors are manufactured, harmful, carcinogenic chemicals can leak into the air and potentially cause harm to employees. Manufacturers, therefore, require employees use protective gear that, in theory, would safeguard them from any cancer-causing agents.

A Korea-based watchdog named Supporters for the Health And Rights of People in the Semiconductor Industry (Sharps) has been especially critical of Samsung, arguing that the company has not done enough to protect its employees. The activist group told Reuters on Monday that it has found approximately 200 Samsung employees who have contracted cancer, including 70 who have died.

Samsung is by no means the only company trying to improve -- or making amends for -- the health of its workers. Last August, Apple announced it would ban the use of two harmful chemicals -- benzene and n-hexane -- in the final assembly of its products, including iPhones, iPads, iPods and Mac computers. The company made the decision after conducting a four-month study at 22 manufacturing partner factories. While Apple's study found that none of the 500,000 workers evaluated were affected by the hazardous chemicals, only four of the factories were using them within normal safety levels.

Apple's study came five months after two activist groups -- China Labor Watch and Green America -- petitioned the company to stop using the chemicals. They cited the US Environmental Protection Agency's classification of benzene as a risky carcinogen that could cause leukemia and other blood disorders. N-hexane, meanwhile, can cause nerve damage.

"This is doing everything we can think of to do to crack down on chemical exposures and to be responsive to concerns," Apple's vice president of environmental initiatives Lisa Jackson told The Associated Press. "We think it's really important that we show some leadership and really look toward the future by trying to use greener chemistries."

Looking ahead, Samsung says it, too, will look at ways to improve the safety of its workers and find new, safer ways to produce its components.