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Am J Ind Med. 1995 Dec;28(6):713-22.

Hierarchical cluster analysis for exposure assessment of workers in the Semiconductor Health Study.

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Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, USA.


The fabrication of integrated circuits in the semiconductor industry involves worker exposures to multiple chemical and physical agents. The potential for a high degree of correlation among exposure variables was of concern in the Semiconductor Health Study. Hierarchical cluster analysis was used to identify groups or "clusters" of correlated variables. Several variations of hierarchical cluster analysis were performed on 14 chemical and physical agents, using exposure data on 882 subjects from the historical cohort of the epidemiological studies. Similarity between agent pairs was determined by calculating two metrics of dissimilarity, and hierarchical trees were constructed using three clustering methods. Among subjects exposed to ethylene-based glycol ethers (EGE), xylene, or n-butyl acetate (nBA), 83% were exposed to EGE and xylene, 86% to EGE and nBA, and 94% to xylene and nBA, suggesting that exposures to EGE, xylene, and nBA were highly correlated. A high correlation was also found for subjects exposed to boron and phosphorus (80%). The trees also revealed cluster groups containing agents associated with work-group exposure categories developed for the epidemiologic analyses.

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