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HOME  > Past issues  > 2014 October 8 - 14  > For an asbestos-free society
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2014 October 8 - 14 [SOCIAL ISSUES]
column 

For an asbestos-free society

October 11, 2014
Akahata ‘current’ column

Asbestos was once hailed as a “miracle mineral” because it is strong, flexible, and fire and heat resistant.

In prewar Japan, it was mainly the war industry which used that substance. After the war, imports of asbestos continued to grow, amounting to 10 million tons to date. Combined with its cost-effectiveness, it was used not only in building materials but also in various products used in everyday life.

This mineral, however, harms the human body. Its micro fibers are 5,000 times thinner than a human hair and are easily dispersed and inhaled. Once inhaled, asbestos dust stays inside the body and causes lung diseases such as cancer and mesothelioma. They are like a “silent time bomb” with an incubation period of several decades.

Over the past century, there existed many asbestos factories in the Sennan district in southern Osaka where Japan’s first asbestos spinning mill was established. Asbestos fibers littered the floors of the factories like snowfall. Asbestos fibers in the air whitened workers’ eyebrows and nostrils.

Workers suffering from asbestos-induced health damages and bereaved families filed a lawsuit in Osaka. Recently, the Supreme Court recognized the state’s responsibility for their health damages as the government had neglected its duty to take necessary preventive measures. Asbestos-related lawsuits are taking place in other locations as well. It is necessary for the government to work hard to responsibly deal with the asbestos-related issue and establish an asbestos-free society for the sake of victims who died or who are still suffering from asbestos-triggered diseases.
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