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#1 Killers Have a Lot in Common

by: Art Varga
President Emeritus, Midwest Chapter ESD Association
Century Container Corp. 708-681-8954

(article first appeared in the Newsletter of the Midwest Chapter of ESD Association)

During my recovery from coronary by-pass surgery, I began to realize some strong similarities between electrostatic discharge (ESD) and coronary artery disease (CAD). Perhaps, by writing an article about these parallels, some of my colleagues might take an interest in extending their lives as well as the lives of ESD susceptible devices.

ESD - a Type of EOS

Electrostatic discharge, a form of electrical over-stress (EOS), is the primary cause of failures in the electronics industry. Accounting for 25% of the system failures and costing the industry an estimated $40 Billion per year, ESD is a major threat. Studies from the telephone industry have shown that EOS/ESD causes 27% of the circuit card failures and ESD causes 30 - 50 % of individual component failures.

CAD - a Type of Cardiovascular Disease

Coronary artery disease, along with high blood pressure, stroke, and rheumatic heart disease, is a form of cardiovascular disease. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 45% of all deaths. An estimated 70 million Americans, about one in every four people, are afflicted. One American dies from cardiovascular disease every 34 seconds, claiming nearly 2,500 lives each day. Based on an average life span of the 75 years, cardiovascular disease causes premature deaths by 5.4 million years, with medical costs exceeding $117 Billion each year.

Coronary artery disease alone causes more than 1.5 million heart attacks and half a million deaths each year. Coronary artery disease is a condition caused by the build up of cholesterol and fat, called plaque, which forms on the inner walls of blood vessels. These layers of plaque obstruct blood flow and harden the arteries, limiting their ability to expand and contract as the heart pumps. As cholesterol deposits thicken, the narrowed blood vessels cannot deliver the amount of oxygen rich blood necessary for the heart muscle to function properly. Moreover, the narrowed coronary arteries can become blocked by clot, shutting off blood flow, and resulting in a heart attack.

What Can We Do?

Knowing what we know now, are we ready for the challenge? Or, are we just going to shrug our shoulders and continue down the same destructive paths?

Both ESD and CAD are controllable. Note that I have stopped short of saying that they are totally preventable. ESD events result from the transfer of electrons from one object to another. They almost always occur, but we can minimize their magnitude and eliminate damage by controlling the environment where ESD susceptible devices are handled.

A similar approach is necessary in the prevention / control of CAD. Diet, exercise, and stress management are critical control program components for cardiovascular disease. Still, CAD can result from a particular form of low-density lipoprotein, Lipoprotein (a), which is genetically determined and can vary in individuals by a factor of 1,000. While Lp(a) appears to be unresponsive to dietetic treatment, some studies show that niacin and estrogen may be effective medical treatments. It is essential for people with Lp (a) to follow all treatments for CAD with strict discipline.

Accepting the Challenge

No matter which, ESD or CAD, the first step begins by learning all that we can about the problem and prevent future occurrences. Then, we must take action, practice and improve our prevention techniques, and not give up.

The biggest problem with ESD control is the loss of commitment. Wrist straps, heel grounders, mats, etc., are only a part of the ESD solution. On-going training and auditing of the process is what makes an ESD control program successful.

The same is true for controlling CAD. We must take action and remain committed. We can't eat cheeseburgers, fries, and milkshakes and expect to keep our cholesterol in check. We can't continue to smoke or be a couch potato either.

For ESD, remove all non-essential charge-generating materials and treat essential items with anti-stats, and ionization. Make sure all groundable items are tied to the common point ground system. Make measurements on all ESD materials and tools before placing them into service, and audit them on a regular basis.

ESD control is essential in the manufacture, shipping, installation, operation, and repair of all types of electronic components and system assemblies. An effective ESD control program is no longer optional, due to the increased susceptibility of new technology.

For CAD, eliminate high fat, high cholesterol foods from your diet. If you smoke, quit. Smoking, and even breathing environmental tobacco smoke, accelerates the aging of arteries. Make sure to see your doctor and follow his/her recommendations for diet and exercise. Learn to manage stress.

There are many good references that provide details on CAD. I suggest reading Joseph Piscatella's book, Don't Eat Your Heart Out, and Dean Ornisj's Program for Reversing Heart Disease.

ESD over-stresses susceptible components much like CAD over-stresses the heart. As ESD practitioners, we learn to eliminate and control static electricity. To remain heart healthy, we must learn how to control and prevent the formation of plaque in our coronary arteries. I hope that this article will serve as a call to action for the control of EOS/ESD and cardiovascular disease.



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