Exasperated with the absence of reliable data, in 1998 LaDou and members of a working group developed a preliminary study plan with the Environmental Protection Agency's Common Sense Initiative to measure cancer and birth defects among California semiconductor workers by cross-linking the state's cancer and birth defect registries with an industry-provided database of semiconductor employees, broken down as to which employees held which job and in what occupational setting. With a few additions -- like tracking birth defects and collecting detailed job descriptions -- it was the same idea as a 1983 Swedish study that found an elevated risk of cancer among electronics workers as a whole, and that concluded with a call for further study "focusing on particular features of the work environment."
The EPA put forward $100,000, and California's Department of Health Services, which had been chosen to conduct the study, promised "an umbrella of confidentiality" to protect the privacy of both workers and specific companies.
At the last minute, the semiconductor industry pulled out, led by representatives from IBM and Intel. In a widely reported statement -- leaked to the press in violation of confidentiality rules -- Intel spokesman Tim Mohin declared: "To participate in a project like this would be like giving [legal] discovery to plaintiffs. I might as well take a gun and shoot myself."