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Asbestos furor in Japan

There have been quite a few articles in the Japanese news lately discussing the dangers of asbestos. As this was something that was dealt with in the United States when I was a child, I wasn’t sure why there was suddenly such a big focus on it. This article from MSN-Mainichi is the first to offer a satisfactory explanation. Apparently the Japanese government stands accused of negligence; it was allegedly aware of the health dangers of asbestos, but did not act to protect its citizens.

The Japanese government knew from at least 1976 that asbestos posed a health risk not only to workers at factories using it, but to their families and residents in the area, it has been learned.

However, in spite of its awareness of the dangers, the government failed to introduce effective countermeasures. As asbestos-related deaths continue to be reported, the government is likely to face criticism over its inaction.

[…]

But after issuing the notices, the government did not introduce any illness prevention measures for residents living near factories that handled asbestos or for the factory workers and their families.

This month, it was learned that 31 residents living near Kubota Corp.’s now defunct Kanzaki factory in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, and the wife of one worker at the factory contracted mesothelioma and died. The factory had handled asbestos for many years.

It was also learned that a woman living near Nara Prefecture-based Tatsuta Kogyo Co. died from mesothelioma.

Apparently, 650 JR rail cars still use asbestos as insulation.