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Holding Asbestos Defendants to Account

May 11, 2022

At a May 9 Tokyo press conference, it was announced that a group of asbestos-injured construction workers are launching a class action lawsuit in June 2022 against manufacturers of asbestos-containing building products. In May 2021, the Supreme Court had ordered that the Japanese Government pay compensation for having failed to act, as a result of which construction workers were hazardously exposed to asbestos; the Government has set up a scheme to pay compensation. Although, courts have ruled that manufacturers were also negligent, these defendants have yet to pay compensation to the injured. See: 建設アスベスト被害 建材メーカーに賠償求め各地で一斉提訴へ [Construction workers seek compensation from building material manufacturers].

Government U-Turn on Deadline

May 9, 2022

Public outrage over the expiration on March 27, 2022 of a deadline for asbestos victims to submit claims for benefits under a special government scheme has been acknowledged by the Liberal Democratic Party and the Komeito Party which have proposed an amendment to the Asbestos Health Damage Relief Act to extend the deadline for claiming benefits by 10 years. Their amendment will be presented to the Japanese Diet during the current session. See: “石綿 特別遺族給付金 期限延長を” 自・公が野党に呼びかけ [“Extending the deadline for asbestos special survivor benefits” The public calls on the opposition].

Extension of Asbestos Relief Scheme

Apr 22, 2022

On April 21, 2022, at a joint meeting of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and the Liberal Democratic Party, it was announced that a 10-year extension had been agreed to a government “special survivors benefits” relief scheme for bereaved relatives of workers who had died from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Under the previous scheme, March 27, 2022 had been the deadline for the submission of claims. As a result of nationwide protests by asbestos victims’ groups and supporting organizations, the Government agreed to extend the scheme. See: アスベスト被害の救済延長へ 自公部会が改正法案了承 [LDP-NKP approves amendment bill to extend relief for asbestos damages].

Second Claim Succeeds for Asbestos Injury

Apr 21, 2022

On April 20, 2022, the widow of a factory worker who had contracted asbestos-related lung cancer and obtained 8.4 million yen (US$65,800) compensation from the Japanese Government, succeeded in another claim against the Government. In a settlement, the Government paid her 3.1 million yen (US$24,270) for the untimely death caused by her husband’s exposure to asbestos at the Hashima City factory where he had worked for the Nichias company. See: アスベスト訴訟で国と和解 死亡で国と再び和解が成立 [Settlement with the country in asbestos proceedings. Another settlement reached due to death [of victim]].

Initiative to Support Asbestos Victims

Apr 19, 202

On April 24, 2022 a meeting is being held in Maebashi, a city in the Kanto region of central Japan, by the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Disease Patients and Family Association (Kita-Kantou Branch) to identify and inform people at high-risk of contracting asbestos-related diseases (ARDs). Speakers will include people who have been diagnosed with ARDs and bereaved family members who will share their experiences and explain issues, including how to access medical and financial support for the injured. See: 石綿被害を訴えて 24日に前橋で相談会 患者や遺族の講演も [Consultation meeting at Maebashi on the 24th to consider asbestos damage. Lectures by patients and bereaved families].

Operation of Compensation Scheme

Apr 13, 2022

The article cited below provided information on the operations of a new government entity set up by the Japanese Government to provide compensation to construction workers injured as a result of occupational exposures to asbestos. The establishment of the administrative scheme became necessary after a landmark decision was handed down by the Supreme Court in 2021 that found that the Government had been negligent in failing to take timely action in recognizing the human health hazard posed by exposures to asbestos. See: アスベストによる健康被害 給付金制度創設、救済に光 [Health damage caused by asbestos, establishing a benefit system].

Victims’ Ruling by Kobe Court

Apr 4, 2022

On March 31, 2022, Judge Satoshi Saito of the Kobe District Court awarded compensation of 20.8 million yen (US$164,000) each to three men who had been employed at the Kobe docks unloading and handling asbestos cargo from the mid-1950s and, as a result, contracted asbestos-related lung cancer. The Judge ruled that according to Japanese law, the employers were required to have protected the workers from exposures to dangerous substances; they failed to do so. See: 神戸港貨物確認元従業員 アスベストで肺がん 法人に賠償命令 [Compensation awarded to former employees from Kobe Port who Contracted Lung Cancer after Unloading Asbestos Cargo].

Local Elevation of Airborne Asbestos Levels

Mar 28, 2022

On March 23, 2022 information was released by Japan’s Ministry of Environment which confirmed that some of the data from routine testing for airborne asbestos levels at 40 locations throughout the country was disturbing. While asbestos concentration in the general environment has been decreasing in recent years, elevated levels continue to be found in areas where asbestos processing or mining had taken place. Investigations are ongoing and measures to protect at-risk citizens are being considered. See: 北海道ノザワ工場から「ほぼ毎年」アスベスト飛散か 最大で住宅地の150倍超 環境省・検討会で指摘 [Ministry of the Environment Study shows, levels of [airborne] asbestos from Hokkaido's Nozawa plant are up to 150 times [average] residential area values "almost every year"].

Asbestos Ruling in Fukuoka!

Mar 25, 2022

On March 24, 2022, the Fukuoka High Court dismissed an appeal by Kitakyushu City and a building maintenance company which had been found guilty by a lower court of having exposed a worker to asbestos at the Kitakyushu City Gymnasium in 1990; as a result of that exposure, he died aged 78. Judge Yoshiaki Moritomi upheld the verdict of the Fukuoka District Court ordering the defendants to pay the family 25.8 million yen (US$211,000). According to the claimant’s lawyer, the 2020 decision by the District Court was the first in Japan to recognize the responsibility of local governments for public facilities which contained asbestos. See: アスベスト訴訟控訴審も北九州市に賠償命令 福岡高裁 [Asbestos proceedings appeal also ordered compensation to Kitakyushu City Fukuoka High Court].

New Asbestos Benefits Law Payments

Mar 23, 2022

On March 18, 2022, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced that it had paid compensation to the first tranche of applicants pursuant to the new Construction Asbestos Benefits Law. On March 2, 86 claims were approved from construction workers who had sprayed asbestos or worked at certain indoor workshops during specific time periods. The successful applicants included employees, self-employed workers and owners of small and medium-sized businesses, who had contracted asbestos-related illnesses. While compensation amounts vary, the maximum payout is 13 million yen (~US$107,500). See: 「建設アスベスト給付金法」に基づく給付金を初めて支給 [First payment of benefits based on the Construction Asbestos Benefits Law].

Help for Asbestos Victims

Mar 21, 2022

An asbestos victims’ group – the Mesothelioma and Asbestos Diseases Patients and Family Association – organized an emergency asbestos hotline on March 18 to 20, to answer questions from potential claimants with asbestos injuries so that they might submit applications for benefits from a Japanese Government scheme due to close on March 27, 2022. The Association estimated that there were at least 20,000 eligible claims which have not yet been submitted. See: 石綿被害の電話相談、全国一斉で18~20日実施 27日請求期限 [Telephone consultation for asbestos damage, carried out nationwide from March 18 to 20; March 27 deadline for submission of claims].

Preventing Asbestos Exposures

Mar 16, 2022

In order to publicize the introduction of stricter regulations under the revision of the Air Pollution Control Law (April 2021), officials from Kosai City are mounting an outreach program to educate duty-holders about new measures required to prevent the dissemination of asbestos fibers during refurbishment and demolition work. Contractors are now obliged to submit results of preliminary surveys to the prefecture prior to the commencement of work. See: 建物解体時の石綿飛散防止 法改正で県が啓発活動 [Prefecture government raises awareness by amending the Asbestos Scattering Prevention Law when dismantling buildings].

Building Material Manufacturers Sued

Mar 7, 2022

Last week, 21 construction workers from Osaka with asbestos-related diseases or surviving families sued 12 manufacturers of toxic building materials; in the past, such claimants issued joint proceedings against manufacturers and the Government. With the Japanese Government having been forced by a Supreme Cout ruling (2021) to acknowledge responsibility for the asbestos injuries sustained by construction workers, litigants are now targeting the manufacturers. The plaintiffs are seeking a sum of 357 million yen (US$3.1m). See: 全国初“建材メーカーのみの責任を問う”裁判 アスベスト被害受けた元作業員らが提訴 [For the first time in Japan former workers with asbestos diseases file a lawsuit to “hold building material manufacturers to account”].

Urgent Calls to Extend Claim Deadline

Mar 7, 2022

Campaigners are calling for urgent action by the Japanese Government to reconsider plans to stick to a March 28, 2022 deadline for the submission of claims by people suffering from asbestos-related diseases as a result of non-occupational exposures such as residents who lived near the asbestos-processing Kanzaki factory. Others who benefited from the scheme were people unable to claim workers’ accident compensation due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Under a law enacted in 2006, these claimants or surviving family members were eligible for government benefits under the scheme set up by the Asbestos Health Damage Relief Act. See: 「静かな時限爆弾」アスベスト 古い被害、再び閉ざされる救済 [“Silent time bomb” asbestos damage relief [scheme] to shut].

Mesothelioma Victims: Update

Mar 4, 2022

The Japanese NGO Mesothelioma Support Caravan is calling on the Government to extend the March 27, 2022 deadline for the submission of asbestos claims. A subcommittee tasked with considering asbestos compensation awards has not met for five years. In 2021, the Ministry of Environment refused to clarify when the next meeting would take place. Anecdotal evidence collected by the NGO suggests that more patients are being diagnosed with mesothelioma in their 40s and 50s; 40% of victims experience financial hardship. See: 「“中皮腫”が治る時代に」闘病生活を送るアスベスト被害者の訴え [Complaints of asbestos victims struggling to survive [economically] because of their illness in an era when mesothelioma “is treatable”].

Asbestos Victims’ Struggle

Feb 16, 2022

A survey of conditions endured by sufferers of asbestos-related diseases in Japan, carried out in 2019 and 2020 by the NGO Mesothelioma Support Caravan, revealed that many respondents were in financial distress: in 2019, 47% of people reported that their income had decreased by 2 million yen (US$17,300+) or more after their diagnosis even though they were in receipt of government benefits. Most of those affected are in their 50s and are paying for their children’s education. According to NGO Chairman Takao Umeda: “Patients and their families are in trouble. I want the Government to review the system as soon as possible so that it does not continue.” See: アスベストでの中皮腫患者 40%余が困窮 “国の支援策充実を” [More than 40% of patients with mesothelioma are in need].

Supreme Court Asbestos Victory!

Feb 15, 2022

A ruling by Japan’s Supreme Court on February 9, 2022 dismissed appeals of a verdict which had awarded 53 plaintiffs damages for asbestos-related injuries. The claimants, who were construction workers or surviving family members, had been awarded compensation of 125 million yen (US$1.1m) by the Fukuoka High Court against four companies which had manufactured asbestos-containing building products, with the Court ruling that the manufacturers had had a responsibility to warn the workers of the asbestos hazard but had failed to do so. See: メーカー4社の責任確定 建設石綿九州訴訟―最高裁 [Responsibility of 4 manufacturers confirmed by Supreme Court; asbestos proceedings for Kyushu plaintiffs].

Condolences over Death of Korean Activist

Feb 7, 2022

Members of the Japan Association of Asbestos Victims and Their Families, Ban Asbestos Japan and other groups in Japan last week published their condolences over the sad news about Korean ban asbestos activist Jeong Ji-yeol who died from asbestos cancer on January 28. Jeong had played a pivotal role not only in the campaign for the rights of Korean asbestos victims but also in campaigns to raise awareness of the asbestos hazard and its impact on workers and members of the public during trips to Japan, Hong Kong, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Nepal. See: 석면추방 앞장 정지열 대표 타계에 일본인들도 애도 [Japanese people mourn the death of Jeong Ji-yeol, a ban-asbestos leading figure].

Victory for Asbestos Victim

Jan 25, 2022

A lawsuit brought over the death in 2021 of a Japanese worker who had been employed for 30 years at a factory in Kitakyushu City manufacturing asbestos-cement roofing has been settled with the Government of Japan agreeing to accept liability and pay compensation of 11.5 million yen (US$101,000) to the deceased’s family. The claimants alleged that the worker had contracted lung cancer as a result of occupational exposures to asbestos which had resulted from the failure of the Government’s timely action to control the asbestos hazard. See: 北九州アスベスト訴訟 国が1150万円支払う和解成立 [Kitakyushu Asbestos Proceedings Settlement in which the country pays 11.5 million yen].

Asbestos Hotline

Jan 24, 2022

On January 19 and 20, 2022, a free telephone hotline was set up in Osaka, Japan by legal advisors to inform potential applicants about the process for submitting claims to a government compensation scheme for construction workers who contracted various diseases as a result of occupational exposures to asbestos. The benefits’ scheme is operated by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. See: 建設現場のアスベスト被害 電話相談 給付金受け付け開始で [Telephone consultation accompanies rollout of compensation [scheme] for those injured by asbestos at construction sites].

Commencement of Benefits Program

Jan 19, 2022

A government scheme to provide financial support to asbestos-injured construction workers in Japan which will avoid the necessity of them bringing legal action to obtain compensation becomes operational on January 19, 2022 as per stipulations in the Construction Asbestos Benefits Law which was adopted by the Diet on June 9, 2021. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has pledged to “make every possible effort to implement the benefit system based on this law,” including the distribution of information to potential applicants. See: 建設アスベスト給付金法が1月19日に施行されます [Construction Asbestos Benefits Act will come into effect on January 19].

Saga Court Settlement Update

Dec 24, 2021

On December 22, 2021, three asbestos cases brought against the Japanese government by bereaved family members were settled before trial proceedings commenced at the Saga District Court. The litigation related to toxic employment at a former asbestos product factory in Tosu City, on the island of Kyushu. These cases were the last of 123 similar claims listed for adjudication by judges at the Saga Court. See: 鳥栖アスベスト訴訟で新たに3人和解 佐賀地裁へ提訴の原告全員和解 [Three new settlements in Tosu asbestos proceedings. Reconciliation of all plaintiffs in Saga District Court].

Asbestos Data and Support for Victims

Dec 20, 2021

Following the release on December 15, 2021 by the Japan Ministry of Labor of asbestos disease data, civil society groups organized a telephone asbestos hot line on December 16 & 17 for people concerned about historic asbestos exposures at work or in the environment. According to government figures, 1,060 people with mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer were eligible last year for benefits from the national scheme for occupational injuries and diseases. A Ministry official predicted that in years to come 1,000 people will be eligible for this asbestos disease compensation. See: Annual asbestos payouts likely for 1,000 people for years to come.

Victory for Kyushu Construction Workers

Dec 17, 2021

News of an agreement between the Japanese Government and 52 plaintiffs, most of whom were surviving family members of construction workers from the Kyushu region who had been affected by asbestos-related diseases, was announced at a Tokyo news conference on December 13, 2021. The central government, which after a ten-year legal battle apologized to the families, offered to pay each claimant about 10 million yen (US $88,900) depending on the severity of his health issues. A government fund to compensate construction workers injured by occupational asbestos exposures will become operational in June 2022. See: Court-mediated settlement on asbestos damage too late for many.

Experts Call for Benefits’ Review

Dec 14, 2021

An investigation undertaken by academics and medical experts into the benefits available in Japan for people with asbestos-related diseases has identified a “disparity in relief” between the amounts they receive and the amounts paid by the government to other claimants with occupationally-caused diseases. The recommendations made by the “Asbestos Damage Relief System Study Group,” which were announced on December 12 at a meeting in Tokyo, included an uplift in monthly payments and a national review of the ”entire national system to eliminate disparities and gaps." See: アスベスト被害救済で格差が 学者らが制度見直し提言 [Disparity in asbestos damage relief; expert proposals to improve system].

Construction Workers Families' Settlement

Nov 17, 2021

On November 10, 2021, Judge Takeshi Tachikawa in Japan’s Fukuoka District Court agreed a settlement with the Government over claims by twenty bereaved families of construction workers from Fukuoka, Kumamoto Prefecture. The cases – known collectively as the Kyushu Construction Asbestos Proceedings – were over the continued failure by the authorities to protect workers from occupational exposures to asbestos. This was the first settlement in Kyushu after the May 2021 Supreme Court ruling which had acknowledged the negligence of the Government and building material manufacturers. See: アスベスト訴訟、九州初の和解…元労働者遺族ら20人と国 [Asbestos proceedings, Kyushu's first settlement ... 20 former workers' bereaved families and the country].

Support for Asbestos Victims

Nov 12, 2021

On Saturday, November 20, 2021 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm a free, confidential emergency telephone hotline will be operational to take enquiries from Japanese people worried about asbestos exposures. The service is being offered by legal and medical experts in Nagoya City who will provide information about available benefits and treatment for the injured. See: アスベスト(石綿)による健康被害についての無料電話相談を実施 [Free telephone consultation on health hazards caused by asbestos].

Victory for Construction Workers

Nov 9, 2021

On November 4, 33 plaintiffs settled claims with the Japanese Government over outdoor occupational asbestos exposures at construction sites; the sum awarded was 435 million yen (US$3.8m). Prior to the settlement the lawsuit was scheduled to be heard by Judge Nohisa Honda at the Osaka District Court. Although the Government had agreed compensation terms for asbestos-injured construction workers previously, they had excluded from the settlement people who had worked outdoors. This development could be pivotal for future claims. See: 屋外作業員、国と初和解 建設アスベスト訴訟―大阪地裁 [Outdoor workers settle for the first time with the government in construction asbestos proceedings in Osaka District Court].

Online Rally Calls for Relief Reforms

Oct 15, 2021

An online rally, attended by eight members of the Diet, victims of asbestos-related diseases and relatives, was held on October 7, 2021 by a group representing asbestos cancer sufferers, to highlight the inadequacy of medical care and the paucity of treatment options for patients with mesothelioma, the signature cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Discrepancies existing under the Asbestos Health Damage Relief Act which financially penalized sufferers were also examined. See: アスベスト被害者の救済制度 「抜本改正」求めオンライン集会 [Online rally for asbestos victim relief system “dramatic revision”].

Secondary Occupational Exposure Case

Oct 12, 2021

On October 6, 2021, a settlement was reached by lawyers representing the Japanese Government with the family of a woman who died from asbestos cancer. Although the deceased had not worked with asbestos herself, she had been employed from 1953-1954 and 1957-1960 in a factory in Amagaski City where the processing of asbestos had taken place. A payment of ¥14 million (US$125,200) compensation was made. See: アスベスト扱わない作業で死亡の女性…国が賠償金1400万円の支払いで遺族と和解 [A woman who died from secondary occupational asbestos exposure... The government settled with the bereaved family by paying compensation of 14 million yen].

Asbestos Hotlines

Oct 7, 2021

From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on October 5 & 6, 2021, citizens concerned about workplace asbestos exposures in Japan, past and present, were able to access to a range of specialists in Sendai on an asbestos hotline set up by trade unions, medical institutions and legal professionals. Whilst the aim was to spread awareness of the rights of construction workers injured by occupational asbestos exposures, callers throughout Japan were also able to consult on issues relating to other diseases caused by toxic exposures at workplaces. See: 建設アスベスト被害 電話相談会 [Construction asbestos damage telephone counselling].

Record Number of Mesothelioma Deaths

Sep 23, 2021

Data revealed on September 10, 2021 by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare documented a record number of deaths in 2020 from mesothelioma, the signature cancer associated with asbestos exposure. Fatalities were concentrated in the areas of Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Sapporo, Nagoya and Amagasaki, with the number of deaths amongst males (1,337) nearly five times that of females (268). Epidemiologists predict that between 2000 and 2040, the Japanese mesothelioma epidemic could claim a further 103,000 lives. See: 昨年の中皮腫死1600人超で最多 ワースト3は東京・大阪・神奈川 アスベスト曝露と連動 [Last year's mesothelioma deaths exceeded 1,600, the worst 3 linked to Tokyo / Osaka / Kanagawa asbestos exposure].

Justice for Power Station Worker

Sep 21, 2021

On September 15, 2021, a victim’s judgment handed down last month by a district court in the Japanese city of Yokosuka was finalized when neither party lodged a motion to appeal. The plaintiff Haruo Koyama had been awarded ¥22 million (US$201,000) by the court for having been negligently exposed to asbestos over a period of 40 years by his employer at the Hitachi Power Station. As a result of that exposure, Koyama contracted the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. See: アスベストで中皮腫発症 会社に2000万円支払いの地裁判決が確定 [Mesothelioma caused by asbestos. A district court decision for company to pay 20 million yen is confirmed].

Widespread Flouting of Asbestos Regs

Sep 15, 2021

For the first time since the Air Pollution Control Act was revised in April 2021, the results of spot checks – in June 2021 at 227 demolition and renovation sites – by the authorities in Osaka Prefecture were announced. Forty percent of the premises inspected were not complying with regulations that mandated obligations to prepare and display asbestos site audits prior to the commencement of work and prevent the liberation of asbestos fibers into the air. See: アスベスト規制違反 法改正後も約4割 大阪府内のパトロールで発覚 [Violation of asbestos regulations Approximately 40% noncompliance was discovered by patrol in Osaka Prefecture after revision of law].

Compensation for Power Plant Worker

Sep 3, 2021

On August 30, 2021, the district court of Yokosuka, Japan issued a victim’s verdict when it ordered the owners of the Hitachi Taura Plant (now renamed Hitachi Power Solutions) to pay Haruo Koyama ¥ 22 million (US$199,000) for occupational exposures to asbestos which resulted in him contracting the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. Mr. Koyama had worked as a welder at the plant from September 1961 until March 1999. Welcoming the resolution of the case, Mr. Koyama urged the company to institute a compensation scheme for asbestos victims without the need for legal proceedings. See: アスベスト訴訟、元従業員勝訴 会社に2200万円支払い命令 [Asbestos proceedings, company ordered to pay ex-employee 22 million yen].

Grassroots Support for Victims

Aug 20, 2021

From 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on August 21 and 22, 2021, a national telephone hotline service will be operational at the toll-free number 0120/349/931 to provide information to people who were occupationally or environmentally exposed to asbestos in Japan. The service is being administered by the Asbestos Victim Relief Fund NGO from Kobe, the Pneumoconiosis and Asbestos Victims Relief Fund from Kanagawa Prefecture and partnering organizations. Information on workers' accident compensation, the intricacies of the benefit system, health measures and other relevant matters will be available. See: 石綿健康被害ホットライン開設 21、22日全国一斉実施 [Asbestos health damage hotline opened 21st and 22nd nationwide].

Asbestos Products’ Companies Denounced

Aug 13, 2021

Japanese construction workers and bereaved family members expressed growing frustration by the failures of building materials manufacturers, who were found guilty of using asbestos in their products, to negotiate and support a national compensation scheme as ordered by the Supreme Court in May 2021 following years of litigation in multiple jurisdictions. Speaking at a public rally in Tokyo on June 16, asbestos cancer widow Ryoko Akechi deplored the intransigence of the building material companies calling them the “the number one perpetrator” of the asbestos epidemic. See: 建設石綿の被害者ら、依然動かぬメーカーにいらだち募る [Construction Asbestos Victims Grow Frustrated with Manufacturers Who Fail to Act].

Victory for Hokkaido Plaintiffs!

Aug 10, 2021

On August 5, 2021 a settlement was reached in a lawsuit brought by asbestos-injured construction workers and bereaved relatives from Hokkaido against the Japanese State and building material manufacturers. Litigation proceedings began in April 2011 at the Sapporo District Court; in 2017, the Government’s negligence was acknowledged but not that of the manufacturers. An appeal was lodged. This month a settlement was reached following the landmark Supreme Court ruling in May 2021 which had supported the rights of the asbestos-injured. See: 国と初の集団和解成立 北海道建設アスベスト訴訟 札幌高裁 [First Class Settlement Reached with the State in Hokkaido Construction Asbestos Lawsuit, Sapporo High Court].

Asbestos Support: Update

Aug 10, 2021

On August 6, 2021, it was reported that Akashi City had set up an advice center – the Asbestos General Counselling Service – for people who had contracted asbestos-related diseases in Japan. The center has seven members of staff and lawyers and provides “a one-stop consultation service” for the injured and their family members. It is open from 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. every weekday and can be accessed by calling: 078-918-5002. See: 明石市がアスベストの健康被害の相談にあたる総合窓口開設 [Akashi City opens a general contact point for consultation on asbestos health hazards].

Government Settles Asbestos Claim

Jul 29, 2021

The case brought by the wife and two sons of a plasterer from Shizuoka City, Japan who died in 2004 aged 56 of asbestos-related lung cancer was settled on July 26, 2021 in the Tokyo High Court. The Government agreed to pay compensation of more than 16.56 million yen (US$150,000) for having failed to protect construction workers from the asbestos hazard. This is the second settlement reached since the landmark Supreme Court verdict (May 2021) recognizing the responsibility of the Government and building material manufacturers for asbestos disease in construction workers. See: 静岡石綿訴訟で和解成立 肺がんで死亡・左官業男性の遺族が国訴えた裁判 [Settlement in Shizuoka asbestos trial for bereaved family of a plasterer who died of lung cancer].

Local Government’s New Victims’ Scheme

Jul 14, 2021

On July 12, 2021, Akashi City announced the launch of a consultation service for asbestos victims amid concerns about the repercussions of toxic exposures during the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and the subsequent clean-up operations. The local government’s initiative will offer occupational and environmental victims a one-stop consultation service to facilitate their access to medical, social and legal services. See: 明石市がアスベスト相談窓口を開設 石綿の健康被害者を支援 [Akashi City Opens Asbestos Consultation Service Supporting Asbestos Victims].

Legal Victory in Osaka

Jul 10, 2021

On July 8, 2021, the Osaka High Court issued a victim’s verdict in a case brought by the family of a 70-year old construction worker Mr. Iwao Kawahara who died from the cancer mesothelioma as a result of occupational asbestos exposures. The government agreed to pay his widow Chizuruko Kawahara the sum of  ¥13.36 million (US$ 121,600). Commenting on the outcome of the case, Mrs. Kawahara said: “It was a long trial, but I am relieved that a settlement has been reached.” See: 建設石綿訴訟、作業員側と国が和解 最高裁判決後で初 [Construction asbestos proceedings, workers and country settled for the first time after Supreme Court decision].

Government Asbestos Disease Data

Jun 28, 2021

Data released by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare for 2020 revealed that the government had recognized as occupational injuries 1,059 cases of construction workers injured through asbestos exposures. In 2022, a government scheme to pay compensation to asbestos-injured construction workers and bereaved families will become operational. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has set up a telephone consultation service to provide information: the phone number is 0570-006031. See: アスベスト吸い込み肺がんなど 昨年度の労災認定1059人 厚労省 [Asbestos inhalation Lung cancer, etc. Last year's occupational accident certification for 1059 people].

Rally for Asbestos Victims

Jun 18, 2021

On June 16, 2021 at Tokyo’s Hibiya Open Air Theater, a rally was held by trade unionists and asbestos victims’ campaigners. Because of Covid restrictions, only 800 people were allowed to attend; these rallies generally attract thousands of attendees. Speakers at the event included representatives from all Japan’s political parties as well as from Zenkensoren – the National Federation of Construction Workers’ Unions) and Ban Asbestos Japan. Speakers addressed strategies for achieving justice for construction workers and ensuring that all asbestos-injured would benefit from a new government scheme. See: 建設アスベスト訴訟 全国総決起集会 日比谷野外音楽堂 National general rally at Hibiya Open Air Concert Hall on behalf of asbestos-injured construction workers].

Asbestos Scheme for Construction Workers

Jun 10, 2021

The Japanese Government announced that a law had been passed at a plenary session of the upper house of the National Diet on June 9, 2021 under which a scheme to compensate asbestos-injured construction workers would be established without the need for victims or their families to take legal action. The government will pay between 5 and 13 million yen (~US$45,660-119,000) per victim and the scheme is due to become operational in 2022. Although self-employed workers are eligible for compensation under this scheme, construction workers who worked outdoors will not be able to bring a claim. See: 建設アスベスト給付金法が成立…1人あたり最大1300万円補償 [Construction asbestos benefit law passed ... Up to 13 million yen compensation per person].

Dying for Justice in Japan

Jun 7, 2021

A commentary in the June 5, 2021 issue of the Japan Times reflected on the implications of the May 2021 Supreme Court (SC) judgment which confirmed the negligence of the Japanese Government and building materials manufacturers for, respectively, failing to address the asbestos hazard in a timely fashion and for failing to put warning labels on asbestos-containing products. Due to the tortuous legal process required to obtain this decision, 70% of the plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit had died of their asbestos injuries before the SC had ruled. The author condemned the mindset of government officials which was one of continued denial and obfuscation. See: The damage done by a lengthy appeals process.

Government Acts on Asbestos Inequity!

Jun 4, 2021

On June 3, 2021, a bill to provide compensation to Japanese construction workers was passed in the House of Representatives. The legislation has been sent to the House of Councillors. It is expected that the new law will be enacted on June 11, 2021 and a national asbestos compensation scheme for construction workers will become operational on April 1, 2022. Under the terms of the draft bill, some asbestos-injured construction workers and bereaved relatives will be able to access up to  ¥ 13 million (US$118,100) from the government-funded scheme. Workers who were employed in the open air at construction sites will not be eligible. See: 建設アスベスト集団訴訟 救済法案が衆院で可決 [Construction workers asbestos relief bill passed by House of Representatives].

Supreme Court Asbestos Ruling

Jun 2, 2021

Legal developments in Japan last month were reviewed in the article cited below. The author explained the background to a unified Supreme Court claimants’ verdict for asbestos-injured construction workers from Kanagawa, Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, 70% of whom had died during the 13 years that the litigation had been proceeding through the courts. The Japanese Government and manufacturers of asbestos-containing building products were held liable for failing to prevent toxic exposures. Claims brought by workers who had been employed out of doors were rejected. See: 建設アスベスト集団訴訟、最高裁で原告勝訴も屋外労働は救済対象外 [Construction asbestos class proceedings, plaintiffs win in Supreme Court, but outdoor labor is not covered by relief].

Act Now, Defendants Told

Jun 2, 2021

An editorial in The Asahi Shimbun, one of the four largest newspapers in Japan, called for a fully-funded compensation scheme for those who had been injured by workplace asbestos exposures in the construction industry in the aftermath of a landmark Supreme Court ruling against the Government and private corporations on May 17, 2021. Highlighting the ongoing failures of manufacturers to agree the terms of their contribution to the scheme, the editorial urged the defendants to cooperate in the process of allocating financial responsibility for the injuries sustained by the plaintiffs. See: EDITORIAL: Government must act quickly to compensate all asbestos victims.

Trade Union Rally

Jun 1, 2021

Trade unionists from the Zenkyotokenchiku Labor Union and other labor groups took to the streets in Kyoto, Japan to show support for all construction workers injured by occupational asbestos exposures, including “outside workers” excluded from recent landmark court rulings upholding the responsibility of the Government and building materials manufacturers for deadly asbestos exposures. Spokesperson Yukio Hirayama, called for the establishment of a fund, financed by the government and the manufacturers, to compensate all asbestos-injured construction workers. See: すべての被害者救済へ運動強める 建設アスベスト訴訟最高裁判決受け、京建労が街頭訴え [Kyoto protest against aspects of supreme court ruling in asbestos case].

Asbestos Litigation: Update

May 26, 2021

Reviewing developments in Japan which saw the Supreme Court on May 17 recognize the rights of asbestos-injured construction workers to be compensated by the Government and the manufacturers of asbestos-containing building materials and the Prime Minister apologize to the claimants for the Government’s negligence, the author of the article cited below called for an immediate recognition of the rights of asbestos-injured construction workers excluded from the new scheme and for the manufacturers of the toxic products to be obligated to contribute to the national compensation fund. See: 建設石綿の被害 一人も取り残さぬ救済制度を.[Construction asbestos damages. A relief system that leaves no one behind].

Japan’s Asbestos Legacy

May 25, 2021

An article which considered the seismic legal developments in May 2021 that overturned years’ of neglect of Japan’s asbestos victims reviewed data regarding national asbestos consumption and the incidence of asbestos-related disease and mortality over recent decades. The author estimated that to date, 10,000 people had been injured by occupational exposures to asbestos at construction sites, and that the final number of those affected could be in the tens of thousands. See: アスベスト被害訴訟(1)最高裁が判決で国の責任認める、補償制度新設へ [Asbestos Victim Proceedings (1) Supreme Court Recognizes National Responsibility in Judgment, To Establish Compensation System].

Legal Support for AsbestosVictims

May 24, 2021

One of the legal teams – “the Osaka Defense Team” –which represented plaintiffs whose claims for asbestos exposures against the Japanese Government and building material manufacturers were recognized on May 17, 2021 by the Supreme Court, held telephone consultation sessions last week to provide information to potential litigants from Osaka and elsewhere concerned about historic occupational asbestos exposures. Information was provided by the lawyers on the subject of the asbestos health hazard and compensation procedures. See: アスベストによる健康被害 無料の電話相談 [Health damage caused by asbestos. Free telephone consultation].

Update: Asbestos Claims Settlement

May 21, 2021

Following the massive coverage of a May 17, 2021 Supreme Court ruling in Japan supporting claims by asbestos-injured construction workers against the Government and building materials manufacturers, more details are emerging. Although the judgment by Presiding Justice Takuya Miyama found that the state’s liability dated from 1975 and included damage sustained by freelance and self-employed workers, claims from construction industry workers who had worked outside – such as roofers – were rejected. A bill to establish a relief system for an estimated 10,000 victims nationwide will be submitted by the Government during the current Diet session. See: Asbestos victims win relief funds after decade-long court battle.

Supreme Court Backs Asbestos Victims

May 18, 2021

On May 17, 2021, Japan’s Supreme Court issued a plaintiff’s verdict in its first unified asbestos judgment. The ruling found for the claimants in class action lawsuits brought by asbestos-injured construction workers or family members at district courts in in Tokyo, Yokohama, Osaka and Kyoto. The Supreme Court confirmed that the Government of Japan had been negligent in delaying action on the asbestos hazard and that manufacturers of building products were also liable for damage done by occupational exposure to their asbestos-containing products. On May 18, 2021, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga planned to meet the plaintiffs to issue an apology on behalf of the Government for their injuries. See: Japan's top court holds state liable for asbestos diseases in workers.

Supreme Court Asbestos Ruling

May 17, 2021

On May 17, 2021, the Japan Supreme Court will issue its ruling explaining the verdict handed down previously which had found the Japanese Government negligent for asbestos injuries sustained by construction workers. This is the first such ruling by the Supreme Court over the asbestos health hazard posed by the use of toxic construction material; the contents of the ruling could affect the level of compensation awards to plaintiffs. Since 2006, when asbestos use in building materials was banned in Japan, 1,200 workers and bereaved families have filed 33 lawsuits for asbestos damages. See: 建設石綿被害、賠償認める理由は? 最高裁が17日判決 [What is the reason for accepting compensation for construction asbestos damage? Supreme Court ruling on the 17th].

Support for Construction Workers Lawsuit

Apr 29, 2021

A rally was organized in Kasuya Town, Fukuoka Prefecture on April 25, 2021 by Japanese unions, to express solidarity with claimants in litigation brought by construction workers over occupational asbestos exposures. Speakers who addressed the gathering included politicians from the ruling and opposition parties as well as Toshimichi Ishimoto, General Manager of the Construction Workers Struggle Campaign, who was optimistic about the outcome in light of the recent Supreme Court verdict favoring asbestos-injured construction workers. See: 全ての被害者救済を 建設アスベスト 九州訴訟で総決起集会 [Rally to Save All Victims of Construction Asbestos in Kyushu].

Appeal of Victim’s Verdict

Apr 14, 2021

On April 9, it was announced that a decision by the Osaka High Court – acknowledging the 2013 asbestos cancer (mesothelioma) death of Kazunori Shimatani had been caused by asbestos exposure during clean-up operations after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake – was being appealed by the Local Government Employees Accident Compensation Fund. Commenting on this development, a family member said: “I am angry that the agency for the relief of the victims did not take the court's decision seriously…” See: 震災がれき回収でアスベスト被害 基金が判決不服として控訴 [Asbestos damage fund appeals against judgment due to earthquake debris collection].

Legal Victory for Bereaved Family

Mar 30, 2021

On March 26, 2021, Judge Kaoru Izumi of the Kobe District Court recognized as occupationally-caused the 2013 death from mesothelioma – the signature asbestos cancer – of municipal worker Kazunori Shimatani, a resident of Akashi City, Hyogo Prefecture, who had been involved in the clean-up effort after the 1995 Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake. As a result of this verdict, compensation will be paid to Shimatani’s family under the local government employee accident compensation fund. See: 死亡した市職員の労災認める 震災処理でアスベスト扱う [Recognition of occupational death of municipal employee caused by asbestos exposure during post-earthquake clean-up].

Supporting Injured Construction Workers

Mar 26, 2021

A symposium was held in Tokyo on March 23, 2021 to consider options for establishing a national compensation fund for construction workers injured by asbestos exposures, following a Supreme Court ruling which found the Government and building material manufacturers liable for having failed to take steps to protect workers from asbestos. The administrative scheme, funded by the government and manufacturers, would be intended to provide timely relief for the injured without recourse to protracted litigation. See: 建設アスベスト被害 政治責任で救済早く補償基金創設へシンポ [Construction asbestos damage political responsibility. Symposium to establish compensation fund].

Government Apologies!

Mar 24, 2021

On March 21, 2021, representatives of the Japanese government – Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Norihisa Tamura and Deputy Minister Takaaki Kobayashi – apologized to construction workers in Kansai and Osaka for the government’s failures to control the asbestos hazard. As a result of the Government’s inertia, the workers were occupationally exposed to asbestos and contracted debilitating and deadly diseases. A recent ruling by the Supreme Court found the Government guilty of negligence and awarded compensation to thousands of construction workers for their asbestos injuries. See: 田村厚労相が原告に謝罪 [Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Tamura apologizes to plaintiffs].

Regulatory Confusion over Asbestos Waste

Mar 18, 2021

In an attempt to increase protection from occupational asbestos exposures in Japan, a new law – the revised Air Pollution Control Act (Great Defense Act) – will come into effect on April 1, 2021. Critics say that far from strengthening the regulatory regime, the new law will lead to confusion and non-compliance with laws related to asbestos waste. Regulations concerning two types of asbestos waste – “waste asbestos, etc.” and “asbestos-containing waste” – vary in their specifications for management and disposal protocols. See: 大防法改正でアスベストの廃棄物規制「緩和」へ 国のずさん対応が現場の上乗せ安全対策つぶす可能性 [Asbestos waste regulation “relaxation” due to amendment of the Great Defense Law].

Construction Workers Outreach Program

Mar 9, 2021

On March 6, 2021, there was a free phone consultation service for Japanese construction workers who had been occupationally exposed to asbestos. The service was offered by legal advisors in the aftermath of a recent Supreme Court decision denouncing the Japanese Government’s culpability for failing to act on the asbestos hazard in a timely manner. Commenting on this outreach initiative, lawyer Toshihiko Tsukuda explained that many construction workers who got sick did not understand that their condition might have been caused by workplace exposures to asbestos materials. See: 建設現場でのアスベスト健康被害 無料の電話相談 [Free telephone consultation for asbestos health hazards at construction sites].

Construction Workers’ Victory

Feb 25, 2021

On February 22, 2021, Judge Takuya Fukayama of the Japanese Supreme Court dismissed most of the appeals by the government and building material manufacturers against a 2018 Osaka High Court plaintiffs’ verdict which awarded compensation to construction workers from the Kansai region who had contracted asbestos-related diseases as a result of failures by the defendants to safeguard occupational health. On February 25, the Court held hearings on claims by Tokyo construction workers; in March and April hearings will be held for Kyoto and Osaka workers, respectively. See: 建設アスベスト大阪訴訟 国とメーカーの賠償責任確定 最高裁 [Construction Asbestos Proceedings, National and Manufacturer Liability Confirmation in Supreme Court].

Relief for Construction Workers

Feb 23, 2021

In the aftermath of several court decisions, including two by the Supreme Court, the Japanese Government has announced plans to set up a compensation scheme for construction workers with asbestos-related illnesses to enable them to obtain vital support without recourse to protracted legal proceedings. The details of the fund were discussed at a meeting on February 18th which was organized by officials from The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Claimants are lobbying for the establishment of a system funded by contributions from the government and building material manufacturers. See: 建設アスベスト 被害者救済へ 厚労省が補償制度の創設検討着手 [Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to consider a compensation system for victims of construction asbestos].

Update: Asbestos Data in Hyogo Prefecture

Feb 15, 2021

According to the latest data released by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, in 2020 Hyogo Prefecture had the fifth largest cohort of people in the country whose diseases were recognized as having been contracted as a result of workplace exposures to asbestos. Per the Ministry’s new figures, 1,145 cases of asbestos-related cancer were recognized in Japan last year; the number for Hyogo Prefecture was 73. Nationwide, 992 workplaces were named at which the injured had been employed, of which 58 were in Hyogo Prefecture. See: アスベスト昨年度73人労災認定 [Asbestos: last year 73 workers certified].

Justice for Asbestos Victims

Feb 15, 2021

In the wake of yet another Supreme Court ruling supporting claims by asbestos-injured construction workers, a Japanese editorial has endorsed calls for “the government and manufacturers [to] set up a fund to create a system to compensate victims” which would be proportionately funded by the companies according to their market share of asbestos-containing building materials. Although Japan’s Health minister Norihisa Tamura recently indicated that the government was willing to embark upon discussions regarding this issue, “no concrete actions have been taken.” See: Editorial: Japan must secure financial help for asbestos victims without delay.

Asbestos Death: Government Compensation

Feb 12, 2021

On February 10, 2021 Yoshiho Asano, the son of the late Miyoko Asano – a temporary worker in the 1960s at the Hashima building materials factory owned by the Nichias Corporation – has received a settlement of 14.3 million yen (US$136,600) from the Government of Japan as a result of a lawsuit begun in 2019 and progressed at the Gifu District Court. Miyoko Asana died from asbestosis, having been exposed to asbestos at the factory during the six months he worked there. See: 「ニチアス」羽島工場アスベスト 元従業員の遺族と国、和解成立 [“NICHIAS” Hashima Factory Asbestos Bereaved family and country of former employee, reconciliation concluded].

Minister’s Apology

Feb 8, 2021

On February 2, 2021, Japan’s Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Norihisa Tamura apologized at a press conference after a January 28, 2021 Supreme Court verdict supported asbestos injury claims against the Government brought by lawyers working for former construction workers from Kyoto Prefecture. Although the Minister said that he felt “responsible” and deeply apologized, he did not mention any future measures that might be implemented to support victims of asbestos-related diseases. See: 建設アスベスト訴訟. 国の敗訴確定2例目で田村厚労大臣謝罪だけ [Construction asbestos proceedings: Only an apology from Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Tamura as second government defeat confirmed].

Sale of Illegal Consumer Goods

Feb 3, 2021

The discovery of asbestos in bath mats and other household goods widely distributed in Japan was, according to a new article, just the tip of the iceberg. Consumers in Japan are concerned about the possibility of buying toxic products despite the fact that the country has prohibited all uses of asbestos. Over the last few years, Cainz – a popular hardware chain of stores – and furniture maker Nitori have both recalled products believed to have contained asbestos. Asbestos-contaminated goods were also distributed via dollar stores and other outlets around Japan. See: Asbestos-laced products continue to haunt consumers in Japan.

Supreme Court Upholds Workers’ Verdict

Feb 1, 2021

On January 28, 2021, Japan’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling by the Osaka High Court which had found the government and manufacturers of construction materials responsible for asbestos-related diseases contracted by former construction workers from the western prefecture of Kyoto. This is the first time that the Supreme Court has recognized the responsibility of construction materials manufacturers for asbestos-related injuries sustained by a a large group claimants. The defendants were ordered to pay compensation of 280 million yen (~US$ 2.7m) to 24 former workers. This ruling is widely regarded as a precedent which will benefit many injured workers. See: Court Holds Japan Govt, Firms Responsible for Asbestos Problems

Asbestos Recall of Toxic Items

Jan 11, 2021

Over three million items sold by the Japanese Nitori company have been recalled from sale due to asbestos contamination of between 0.2 and 1.5%. Amongst the toxic products sold by Nitori between December 4, 2016 and December 16, 2020 were bath mats, containing up to 15 times the allowable concentration of asbestos, and coasters manufactured by the Japanese company Horiki Kosakusho. On December 28, 2020 a spokesperson for the Chemical Substances Control Division of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, confirmed that asbestos had been detected in 18 types of Nitori products. See: <速報>ニトリ販売のバスマットから基準15倍のアスベスト検出 [Breaking news: Asbestos detection of 15 times the standard from bath mats sold by Nitori].

Government Apology!

Dec 30, 2020

On December 23, 2020, Japan’s Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Norihisa Tamura met with plaintiffs in a landmark Supreme Court class action mounted by asbestos-injured construction workers to apologize to them on behalf of the Japanese Government. The Minister said: “We take the judgment seriously and will take appropriate measures.” He promised to facilitate a forum to consider how best to support victims who had been injured as a result of the Government’s failures; injured workers had called for a national fund so that victims would not have to endure protracted legal battles to obtain compensation. See: アスベスト裁判 原告らに謝罪 協議の場設ける考え示す 厚労相 [Asbestos Trial, Apology to plaintiffs by Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare].

Asbestos Product Recall

Dec 29, 2020

On December 22, 2020, it was announced that Nitori, a Japanese home furnishing chain of stores, had recalled over 2 million items which could contain asbestos fibers. The nine affected products, which had been made in China, were bath mats and coasters. Asbestos use has been banned in Japan for a number of years and the sale of these products was illegal. It is not yet clear if the contamination was caused by intentional inclusion of fibers in the products. Customers who purchased the products were advised to return them to a Nitori store for a full refund, with or without the receipt. See: Japanese home furnishing chain issues massive recall for asbestos-heavy bath mats and coasters.

Government Apology for Asbestos Crimes

Dec 21, 2020

Norihisa Tamura, Japan’s Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, held a press conference after a Cabinet meeting on December 18th during which a recent decision by the Supreme Court was discussed. The Court had issued a ruling on behalf of asbestos-exposed construction workers which recognized the responsibility of the Government for neglecting to prevent toxic exposures at work. The Minister apologized, saying: “I feel responsible and deeply apologize to the plaintiffs.” This week he will meet representatives of the claimants to apologize to them in person. See: 建設石綿訴訟で厚労相謝罪 国責任の司法判断確定 [Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare apologizes for construction asbestos proceedings].

Supreme Court Verdict!

Dec 18, 2020

On December 14, 2020, Japan’s Supreme Court issued a plaintiffs’ verdict – which dismissed an appeal brought by the Government; the Court ordered the Japanese Government to pay compensation of US$22 million to 350 asbestos-injured construction workers – or surviving family members – from Tokyo, Saitama and elsewhere, as per a 2018 order by the Tokyo High Court. The ruling, which acknowledged the Government’s responsibility for the illnesses of both employed and self-employed workers, was the first to hold the Government responsible for asbestos injuries to construction workers. The Court found that the Government had not acted in a timely manner to prevent toxic asbestos exposures. See: Court finalizes state payment to asbestos victims.

Lawsuit for Construction Workers

Dec 15, 2020

On December 3, 2020, the first arguments were held in the Sendai District Court in a legal action on behalf of ten former workers or their bereaved family members regarding asbestos-related deaths caused by occupational exposures at construction sites in Japan. The claimants are seeking total damages of 269.5 million yen ($US 2.6m) from the Japanese government and 12 manufacturers of building materials. See: 国、建材メーカー争う姿勢 東北アスベスト訴訟初弁論 [National government and building material manufacturers contest asbestos claims, first arguments].

Supporting the Asbestos-Exposed

Dec 7, 2020

An asbestos outreach phone clinic was held in the Japanese city of Nagoya on December 5, 2020 for people who had worked at asbestos factories or in the construction industry and members of their families. On hand to answer questions were legal and medical professionals. The Japanese Government was relatively slow in restricting and banning the use of asbestos compared to other industrialized countries, having prohibited the use of amosite (brown) and crocidolite (blue) asbestos as recently as 1995 and achieving a total ban on all asbestos by 2012. See: アスベスト被害の無料電話相談会 5日、東海弁護団 [Free telephone counseling for asbestos damage, December 5, 2020].

Toxic Give-Aways by Local Council

Nov 30, 2020

On November 27, 2020, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced that gifts distributed by Kaizuka City, Osaka Prefecture to taxpayers was contaminated with asbestos. The bath mats and coasters were made from diatomaceous earth – a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. The products were marketed under the brand name “Caraco” and were made by the Horiki Kosakusho company in Kaizuka City; they were found to contain up to 0.61% asbestos. See: 返礼品にアスベスト含有、製造元が回収 大阪・貝塚市ふるさと納税 [Asbestos containing goods, distributed by Kaizuka City in return for local tax payment to be collected by the manufacturer].

Asbestos Mortality: Documentation

Nov 10, 2020

A group representing Japanese patients with asbestos-related diseases has welcomed moves by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) to mandate the long-term retention of death certificates for asbestos-caused deaths; in Tokyo, Yokohama, Chiba, Mito, Maebashi, Nagano, Kanazawa, Hiroshima and Tokushima and elsewhere these documents are routinely destroyed five years after the deaths occurred. Acting upon the MHLW’s request, the Ministry of Justice required 50 Legal Affairs Bureaus to retain these death certificates for 27 years. See: アスベスト労災の死亡診断書、法務省が27年間保存要請 患者団体「大きな進展」 [Death certificate for asbestos work accidents, Ministry of Justice requests preservation for 27 years Patient group “Major progress”].

National Asbestos Death Toll

Nov 4, 2020

A Japanese language article highlighted findings published by the Global Burden of Disease report which suggested that asbestos mortality in Japan (20,267), was the 3rd highest in the world, after the US (40,000) and China (26,000) in 2019. According to campaigner Sugio Furuya: “the actual scope of asbestos harm in Japan is unknown. This estimate reiterates that the current compensation and relief cannot save the victims.” Japan used asbestos long after other industrialized countries had banned it; prohibition of use started in 1995 with bans on amosite and crocidolite and was completed with a ban on all types in 2012. See: 日本の19年石綿関連死者数、推計2万人超 研究機関調査 [Japan's 19-year asbestos-related deaths, estimated to exceed 20,000 in Research institute survey].

Asbestos in Castle

Oct 28, 2020

On October 27, 2020 it was announced that sprayed asbestos material had been discovered in September on the indoor staircase of Okayama Castle, a 16th century structure in Okayama City on the west of Honshū Island. The city-owned building, which is now a museum, will remain open for the time being as no airborne fibers had been detected. Remediation work is scheduled to be undertaken in 2021, during which time the asbestos-containing paint identified in the castle’s tower will be removed. See: 岡山城にアスベスト 来年度の改修工事で撤去へ [Asbestos in Okayama Castle to be removed in next year's renovation work].

Asbestos Appeal at Supreme Court

Oct 26, 2020

On the afternoon of October 22, 2020, the first hearing took place before Judge Takuya Fukayama at the Japanese Supreme Court in an appeal by 80 asbestos-injured construction workers and surviving family members from Kanagawa Prefecture. The plaintiffs, who are seeking damages from the Japanese government and manufacturers of building materials, argued that from at least 1975 there was knowledge of the harmful effects of asbestos exposures and measures should have been implemented to protect workers. See: 建設アスベスト訴訟、最高裁で弁論 同種上告審で初 [Construction asbestos proceedings, argument at the Supreme Court for the first time in a similar appeal!].

Japan’s Mesothelioma Epidemic

Oct 16, 2020

According to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare there have been 26,608 deaths since 1995 from the signature asbestos cancer, mesothelioma and the number of deaths “is expected to increase in the future,” due to the country’s widespread and heavy use of asbestos throughout the 20th century. A comparison between asbestos consumption data, asbestos regulations and incidences of disease from Japan and the UK supported the prediction that mesothelioma mortality in Japan will continue to increase for some years to come. See: アスベストの脅威続く 中皮腫死すでに2万6608人 被害予測は10万人超 [Asbestos threat continues, mesothelioma deaths already 26,608, damage forecast exceeds 100,000 people].

Another Mesothelioma Death in Japan

Oct 14, 2020

The mesothelioma death was reported on October 12, 2020 of 51-year old Eri Matsui, a Japanese mother of two who was exposed as a child to asbestos liberated by a water pipe factory near her home in Saitama City. Ms. Matsui endured a protracted battle for recognition and compensation against those she considered responsible for her disease and became a leading campaigner in the fight to raise awareness of the asbestos hazard. A documentary film entitled “Playing with the glowing sand as a child” about Japan’s toxic asbestos legacy in which she had a feature role was released a mere eight days before she died. See: アスベスト被害者 松井絵里さん逝去 [Asbestos victim Eri Matsui passes away].

Asbestos Rally in Tokyo

Oct 12, 2020

On October 8, 2020 campaigners supporting the legal rights of construction workers to be compensated for asbestos-related diseases held an outdoor rally at the Hibiya Open Air Concert Hall in Tokyo, to highlight their demand in anticipation of an expected ruling by the Supreme Court. The demonstrators were calling for relief for all the victims and the establishment of a compensation fund. Mitsuo Yoshida, Chair of the trade union Zenken Soren, told the meeting that: “The responsibility of the government and building material manufacturers is clear. We should try to resolve them [these cases] during the lifetime of the plaintiffs.” See: 建設石綿訴訟全面解決を [Complete resolution of construction asbestos proceedings].

Mesothelioma Mortality: New Data

Oct 5, 2020

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare expects the annual number of mesothelioma deaths to increase although figures just released showed a slight decline. There were 1,466 mesothelioma deaths in 2019 compared to 1,512 in 2018, with the highest incidence of mortality in Osaka (148), Tokyo (123) and Hyogo (107). Since 1995, there has been a total of 26,608 mesothelioma deaths in Japan. The Japanese government recognizes that most people who contract mesothelioma were exposed to asbestos. See: 昨年の中皮腫死1466人 ワースト3は大阪・東京・兵庫 推定原因はほぼアスベスト [Mesothelioma deaths in 2019 were 1466; worst affected areas were: Osaka, Tokyo, Hyogo. Probable cause of these deaths was almost certainly exposure to asbestos].

Appeal by Asbestos Defendants

Sep 24, 2020

A decision handed down by the Tokyo District Court on September 4, 2020, against the Japanese Government and asbestos manufacturers, awarding compensation of 1.3 bn yen (US$12.2m) to 121 former workers who had contracted asbestos-related diseases has been appealed by three companies including the Nichias Corporation, a defendant in many Japanese asbestos lawsuits. In the Tokyo verdict, Judge Maezawa had been categorical about the guilt of the defendants: “Since 1975 at the latest, when dealing with asbestos, it has been obligatory to use warning signs and dust masks.” See: ニチアスら2社が控訴 石綿被害訴訟、東京 [Nichias and two other companies appeal asbestos damage lawsuit, Tokyo].

Victim’s Verdict in Fukuoka

Sep 21, 2020

On September 16, 2020, the Presiding Judge Atsushi Tokuchi of the Fukuoka District Court issued a ruling ordering the Kitakyushu Municipal Government and a building maintenance firm to pay compensation of ~26 million yen (US$246,000) to the family of a worker who died in 2013 aged 78 from asbestos-related lung cancer as a result of toxic workplace exposures at the Kitakyushu City General Gymnasium, a facility that was constructed using asbestos materials. This verdict is believed to be the first of its kind to recognize a municipal government's responsibility for asbestos management. See: Fukuoka court holds local gov't responsible for worker's asbestos exposure in Japan first.

Mitsubishi’s Asbestos Crimes

Sep 10, 2020

On September 2, 2020, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. of Japan announced that between October 2006 and July 2015 it had illegally sold and shipped asbestos-containing products for repairing engines used on ships, in power generation and for construction work, despite a national asbestos ban. The illegal parts had been made at the company’s plant in Sagamihara City. The company is in the process of setting up a call center to replace the toxic parts free of charge and facilitate the disposal of returned goods contaminated with asbestos. See: 三菱重工、建機エンジン部品でアスベスト含む製品販売 [Mitsubishi Heavy Industries sells products including asbestos for construction machinery engine parts].

Claimants’ Verdict in Tokyo

Sep 8, 2020

Another legal victory was achieved on September 4, 2020 when asbestos claimants won their case in the Tokyo District Court against the Japanese Government and five manufacturers of asbestos-containing building materials. The Court awarded compensation of 1.3 billion yen (US$12.2m) to 121 plaintiffs who had contracted asbestos-related illnesses as a result of toxic exposures at construction sites in the Tokyo area. In the verdict, Judge Tatsuro Maezawa said: “Since 1975 at the latest, when dealing with asbestos, it has been obligatory to use warning signs and dust masks.” See: アスベスト訴訟 国とメーカーに13億円余の賠償命じる 東京地裁 [Asbestos Litigation Tokyo District Court ordering state and manufacturer compensation of over 1.3 billion yen].

Legal Victory for Constructions Workers

Sep 2, 2020

On August 28, 2020, the Tokyo High Court ordered compensation of 1,679 million yen (~US$16m) to be paid by the Japanese Government and 43 building material manufacturers to 64 former construction workers (known as Kanagawa’s Second Wave of Asbestos Construction Litigation), or surviving family members, for asbestos-related diseases contracted as a result of hazardous workplace exposures. The court found that the defendants had neglected to implement measures to protect workers from the asbestos hazard. Trial Judge Murakami recognized the right of self-employed workers as well as employees to claim for their injuries. See: Tokyo High Court awards compensation for asbestos injuries sustained by construction workers against the Government and private companies.

Japanese Construction Workers’ Lawsuit

Aug 27, 2020

On August 27, 2020, hearings began in the Sendai District Court in a case brought on behalf of ten Japanese construction workers injured by workplace asbestos exposures who are seeking damages from the Japanese Government as well as 12 manufacturers of asbestos-containing building materials. Only three of the former claimants are alive; the remaining seven died from asbestos diseases. The plaintiffs are seeking ¥38.5 million (~US$363,000) per worker on the grounds that the defendants had failed to provide protective equipment despite knowing that exposure to asbestos could be hazardous. See: Asbestos-exposed construction workers seek damages from government and firms.

Asbestos Advice

Aug 25, 2020

On August 22 & 23, 2020, a telephone advice line was operational from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. in the Japanese city of Kobe to provide information and advice about asbestos hazards for people who may have been occupationally exposed to asbestos. The service was run by the Asbestos Victims Relief Fund – a non-government organization (NGO) – and took calls such as one from a construction worker who had been exposed to asbestos on a building site. Masayuki Kanda, President of the NGO, expressed concern that: “some people are refraining from going to the hospital or consulting [doctors] because of the new coronavirus, even if they are feeling unwell.” See: アスベスト被害の電話相談 [Telephone consultation regarding asbestos damage].

Miyagi Construction Workers Lawsuit

Aug 24, 2020

Following 16 class action asbestos lawsuits mounted by Japanese construction workers against the State and building material manufacturers, on August 26, 2020 a new class action lawsuit will be filed in Sendai District Court on behalf of construction workers in the Tohoku region who contracted lung cancer from occupational asbestos exposures; in the cases where workers are deceased, the claims will be issued in the name of surviving family members. The lawsuit will seek damages from the State and 12 building material manufacturers. This is the first such legal action brought in Tohoku. See: アスベストで健康被害 宮城の建設労働者ら提訴へ [Miyagi construction workers file lawsuit over asbestos injuries].

Sad Anniversary

Jun 29, 2020

June 29, 2020 is the 15th anniversary of the “Kubota Shock (KS)”; the KS initiated a public awakening in Japan of the existence of a nation-wide epidemic of asbestos-related diseases. Since the KS, 600 people have died in Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture – the location of a former Kubota company factory – from both occupational and environmental exposures to asbestos fibers liberated by the manufacturing at the Kanzaki site. According to asbestos victims’ campaigner Hiroshi Iida: “The damage is not over…It is a catastrophe that should not be forgotten.” See:「病魔今ごろ暴れだした」クボタ石綿被害、15年で600人に [“Disease now rampages” Kubota Asbestos damage, 600 people in 15 years].

Benefits Vacuum: Lung Cancer Cases

Jun 26, 2020

As of the end of 2018, more than US$735 million of Japanese government benefits allocated for the payment of compensation to asbestos victims remained unused due to a massive under-recording and under-recognition of cases of lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure. According to Professor Masahide Sakamoto, an expert on asbestos issues at Senshu University: “Surplus funds have amassed to nearly 80 billion yen because lung cancer patients could not be certified properly and there are holes in the system. The qualification criteria for lung cancer patients should be reviewed and consideration should be made for the benefits to be upgraded to a level that enables minimal living standards.” See: Japan gov't relief funds for asbestos going unused due to few lung cancer certifications.

Failed by the State

Jun 26, 2020

An online commentary on a Japanese news portal considered the hypocrisy illustrated by Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J’s) decision to end sales of talc-based baby powder in North America whilst continuing to sell its toxic product in Japan. Questions asked to officials at Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency and Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare by the author of the commentary about the hazards posed by exposing Japanese babies and their mothers to J&J’s baby powder were fobbed off with civil service doublespeak. No response was received from J&J Japan. See: 北米では販売中止に アスベスト入りベビーパウダーを日本はなぜ野放しに [Discontinued in North America Why baby powder with asbestos left unchecked in Japan].

Deadly Asbestos Legacy

Jun 3, 2020

The results of an annual health report by Japan's Environment Ministry confirmed that more than 30% of respondents to the ministry’s survey had developed symptoms of asbestos-related conditions by inhaling asbestos liberated by the operations of local asbestos-using factories. The authors of the report documenting the newly released data warned that the figure of “over 30%” was an underestimate of the likely impact of asbestos exposures on local populations. Despite this and other government initiatives, many people remain unaware of the environmental hazard posed by their exposure to asbestos say health and safety campaigners in Japan. See: Link between local residents' illnesses and asbestos use at factories: Japan study.

Asbestos: New Restrictions

Jun 1, 2020

Last week, regulations were tightened in Japan in the Revised Air Pollution Control Act to prevent the liberation of asbestos during demolition work on contaminated buildings. The new provisions mandated the commissioning and submission of asbestos audits to local authorities before work on asbestos-containing structures was begun; these regulations, which will be implemented by 2022, could increase the number of dismantling projects supervised by the Ministry of Environment from 16,000 to 320,000 per year. See: アスベスト飛散防止徹底へ 改正大気汚染防止法が成立 [Thorough prevention of asbestos scattering as Revised Air Pollution Control Law enacted].

New Therapy Protocol for Mesothelioma?

Apr 27, 2020

A paper uploaded on April 20, 2020 by a team of 18 Japanese researchers explored the potential of using a recently developed cancer therapy – Near-Infrared photoimmunotherapy (NIR-PIT) – for the treatment of malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM). The results reported from in-vivo and in-vitro tests suggested that Podoplanin-targeted NIR-PIT could be a promising new treatment for MPM. See: Targeted Phototherapy for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma: Near-Infrared Photoimmunotherapy Targeting Podoplanin.

Asbestos Earthquake Hazard

Feb 17, 2020

A documentary on Japan TV marking the 25th anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, explored the asbestos hazard resulting from that disaster; filmmakers detailed the case of Kazunori Shimatani, a former employee of Akashi City, Hyogo Prefecture who died from mesothelioma in 2013 at the age of 49. Mr. Shimatani had been exposed to asbestos during the post-earthquake clean-up. The death of Mr. Shimatani has not been officially recognized or compensated. To date, a total of five Hyogo Prefecture workers – including clean-up crews and first responders – have been diagnosed with mesothelioma. See: 阪神大震災から25年…“静かな時限爆弾”アスベストの脅威 [25 years since the Great Hanshin Earthquake ... “Silent time bomb! asbestos threat].

Asbestos at the Olympics

Jan 6, 2020

News that asbestos contamination had been found at the Tatsumi Water Polo Center – a venue which will be used for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics – was widely reported throughout the last week of 2019. Although the asbestos problem had been identified in 2017, the building’s owners, the Tokyo Metropolitan government, had failed to take remedial action, claiming that “there was a low degree of danger.” On December 25, however, it was announced that the situation would be addressed in order to prevent environmental contamination that might endanger spectators. See: Tokyo officials finally tackle asbestos hazard at Olympic venue.

Legal Victory for Victims

Dec 10, 2019

On November 11, 2019, the Fukuoka High Court ordered the government and 4 construction material manufacturers to pay compensation of ¥350 million (~US$3.22m) to former construction workers and bereaved relatives from the Kyushu region for health problems caused by occupational exposures to asbestos. Judge Noriyuki Yamanouchi ruled that the government and the four companies had negligently failed to implement measures to protect workers’ safety. In addition, the judge upheld actions brought by self-employed contractors and ordered the government to compensate 27 of the 28 claimants and the companies to compensate 26. See: Fukuoka court orders Japan and firms to pay ¥350 million for health problems due to asbestos.

Legal Victory for Victims

Oct 14, 2019

At a press conference after a meeting of the Japanese Cabinet this week, Minister of Justice Kawai announced the Government would not appeal a September 2019 ruling by the Fukuoka High Court which upheld a claim, by a former worker who contracted lung cancer, that the compensation he should receive from the government for occupational asbestos exposures should be higher than the standard rate previously set. He was awarded 12.65 million yen (US$117,000). The positive verdict for the Kitakyushu City man followed similar outcomes for litigants in Kobe and Hiroshima. See: スベストの健康被害めぐる福岡高裁判決 政府 受け入れ方針 [Fukuoka High Court Decision on Asbestos Health Damage, Government Accepts Ruling].

Government’s Asbestos Liability

Oct 1, 2019

Under a settlement registered on September 27, 2019 with the Osaka District Court, the Government of Japan agreed to pay 57.2 million yen (US$530,000) to the families of 4 workers who died from asbestos-related diseases due to exposures experienced whilst recycling asbestos-contaminated hemp bags. The agreement followed a case brought by relatives of people who worked in 3 factories in Sakai City between 1944 and 1976. According to the defense team, this is the first settlement in Japan for asbestos disease contracted as a result of employment at a bag recycling plant. See: 麻袋リサイクル作業で石綿被害、国と元労働者が初の和解 大阪地裁 [Asbestos damage due to recycling of hemp bags, first settlement between the country and former workers Osaka District Court].

Pre-Olympics Asbestos Hazard

Sep 28, 2019

An editorial in The Japan Times highlighted the dangers posed by the demolition of buildings containing asbestos to make way for new constructions for the Tokyo Olympics 2020. The author called for urgent implementation of tighter regulations for dealing with asbestos – a substance widely used in building products throughout Japan for several decades – in order to protect occupational and public safety. Two million eight hundred thousand buildings in Japan are believed to contain asbestos; between 2000 and 2040, it has been estimated that up to 100,000 people could die from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma. See: Halt further health damage from asbestos.

New Mandatory Asbestos Audits

Sep 10, 2019

A September 5, 2019 editorial on the website of The Asahi Shimbun, a highly respected daily newspaper in Japan, urged the Government to follow international precedents and tighten up laws to prevent exposures to asbestos-containing products incorporated within the national infrastructure. Recommendations proposed by a subcommittee of the Central Environment Council to the Ministry of the Environment will form the basis of an amendment to the Air Pollution Control Act and will mandate the introduction of asbestos audits prior to the commencement of building renovation or remediation work. All audits must be submitted to local authorities in order for permission to proceed to be granted. Japan banned asbestos in 2004. See: (社説)石綿規制強化 [(Editorial) Strengthening asbestos regulations].

Asbestos at the Supreme Court

Aug. 27, 2019

Mandatory monitoring of the Grand Court of Japan’s Supreme Court in October 2018 revealed illegal levels of airborne asbestos as a result of which use of the Court was suspended in February, 2019. During the construction of the Court, sprayed asbestos had been applied to large aluminium panels in this part of the building; an inspection of the premises a decade ago had confirmed the presence of the hazardous material. Japanese law stipulates measures to protect workers from toxic exposures including asbestos removal and disposal. With asbestos removal completed in July, the Grand Court will reopen in October, 2019. See: 最高裁大法廷にアスベスト、使用中止 実は10年前発覚 [Asbestos in the Supreme Court, discovered 10 years ago, results in court closure].

Toxic Talc at Sumitomo

Jul 24, 2019

On July 19, 2019, an appeals court in Osaka, Japan issued a claimants’ verdict in a case brought over occupational exposure to asbestos-contaminated talc used at a tire factory in Kobe City belonging to Sumitomo Rubber Industries. Damages of 100 million yen (~US$925,000) were awarded to seven former workers or their surviving families; all of the claimants, six of whom have died, had contracted the asbestos-related diseases mesothelioma, asbestosis or lung cancer. See: 住友ゴムのアスベスト訴訟、控訴審は全員勝訴 1億円の支払い命じる [Sumitomo Rubber's asbestos lawsuit, appeals court orders victory payment of 100 million yen].

High Level of Compensation Claims

Dec 21, 2018

On December 19, 2018, Japan’s Ministry of Health announced that in 2017 it had approved 1,054 claims from people who had worked at 879 companies who were victims of occupational diseases caused by exposure to asbestos. For the first time, one workplace – Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.'s Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works in southern Japan– had been responsible for more than 200 compensation claims in one year. Seventy of the claimants had already died when their claims were recognized. Amongst the eligible claimants, 126 had lung cancer and 72 mesothelioma; the rest were suffering from other asbestos-related diseases. See: 1,054 people from 879 firms linked to work-related diseases due to asbestos.

Relief Scheme for Construction Workers?

Oct 18, 2018

Within the context of a commentary highlighting multiple legal victories for construction workers in asbestos claims against the Japanese government and manufacturers of asbestos-containing building products, calls are made for construction workers to be provided relief within an existing national scheme that awards compensation to other sufferers of asbestos-related injuries. “It is time,” the author writes “for the government to work with other parties in the lawsuits to explore out-of-court ways of providing relief to the plaintiffs.” See: Provide relief for asbestos-linked health damage.

Another Court Victory!

Sep 21, 2018

On September 20, 2018, Presiding Judge Eguchi Toshiko of the Osaka High Court issued judgment in an appeal brought regarding a decision by the Osaka District Court which had held the Japanese government liable for asbestos injuries sustained by 33 construction workers. Toshiko found that the manufactures of asbestos-containing building products were also responsible for the damages sustained by the plaintiffs and awarded the claimants – including self-employed workers as well as employees – a total of 339 million yen (~US$3m). There are 15 similar lawsuits currently progressing through the Japanese judiciary; this is the 4th high court ruling to be issued. See: 大阪アスベスト訴訟 [Osaka Asbestos Lawsuit].

Post-Earthquake Asbestos Hazard

Sep 19, 2018

Three months after the June 18, 2018 earthquake hit the Osaka area of Japan, some libraries, community centers, classrooms, and other facilities remain closed due to collapsed ceilings and materials containing asbestos. A multipurpose center – home to the central library, the municipal welfare department and the central community center – remains shut without any plans for reopening due to the threat posed by damaged asbestos-containing products in the building’s ceiling. The situation is replicated in buildings throughout the prefecture. See: Public facilities still closed since June Osaka quake for fear of asbestos exposure.

Another Court Victory

Sep 15, 2018

For the third time, on August 31, 2018 a Japanese court ruled in favour of construction workers injured by occupational exposure to asbestos when the Osaka High Court held the government and 10 construction material manufacturers liable to pay ¥302 million (US$2.7m) in damages to 27 former construction workers or their surviving families. In its ruling, the Osaka High Court recognized the government’s responsibility for health problems suffered by self-employed operatives; presiding judge Naoyuki Tagawa said: “If the state’s measures to regulate asbestos were substantially unreasonable, they should inevitably be considered to be illegal.” See: Osaka High Court orders government, 10 firms to pay ¥302 million in damages over asbestos exposure.

Capital’s Asbestos Hotspot

Jun 5, 2018

For the first time, a cluster of environmentally-caused asbestos-related cancers has been found in the Japanese capital, according to data documenting four deaths between 2007and 2017 from the asbestos cancer mesothelioma within a 500-meter radius of an asbestos cement factory which operated from 1937 until 1980. The four deceased – 3 men and 1 woman – had never worked with asbestos but had lived near the factory for between 7 and 76 years. According to a local resident of the affected Ota Ward area, the atmosphere around the Tokyo factory was “always whitish and the dust was everywhere when the wind blew.” See: 4 Tokyo residents near former asbestos factory die of mesothelioma.

Victims at the Diet

Jun 5, 2018

On June 1, 2018, an inaugural event took place in Tokyo organized by the Japanese Network of Asbestos Victims and their Families which provided the opportunity for 50 victims (35 with mesothelioma) and 150 family members to meet with Members of the Japanese Diet – the country’s bicameral legislature – for an hour and with government officials for three hours at the National Diet. Ten victims too ill to attend prepared video messages which were screened at the conference. Key recommendations made included the need for improved medical treatment and more equitable compensation. See: 中皮腫アスベスト疾患患者と家族の会 [Mesothelioma Asbestos disease patient and family association].

Asbestos Victims’ Mobilization

May 13, 2018

In Japan, asbestos victims have established a movement to provide support by asbestos-affected individuals for others in the same position. The “Mesothelioma Peer Support Caravan (MPSC)” was founded in mid-2017; since then, more than 100 mesothelioma sufferers have been contacted at home or hospital or via group meetings. Thirty mesothelioma sufferers with scores of other asbestos victims are to meet with government officials on June 1, 2018 to explain the reality of living and dying with asbestos diseases. In addition, 3 Japanese mesothelioma sufferers have just returned from Korea where they met with colleagues from the Ban Asbestos Network of Korea (BANKO) to prepare for BANKO’s 10th anniversary event on July 3-4, 2018.

Victims Win!

Mar 15, 2018

On March 14, 2018, the Tokyo High Court ordered the Japanese Government to pay compensation of 2.28bn yen ($21m) for 327 cases of asbestos-related diseases contracted by construction workers from the Tokyo metropolitan area; they had been seeking 11.8bn yen in damages from the state and 42 manufacturers. Judge Toru Odan did not find the manufacturers of asbestos-containing construction materials liable for damages even though they had failed to give proper warning of the asbestos hazard. See: High court orders gov't to compensate asbestos victims - The Mainichi.

Asbestos Documentary Award

Nov 29, 2017

On November 26, 2017, the Japanese documentary Sennan Asbestos Disaster won the FILMeX audience award at the Singapore International Film Festival. The director Kazuo Hara accepted the award in person as he was present in his capacity as the FILMeX jury chairman. In October 2017, the film had won the Citizen’s Prize at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in Japan and the Mercenat Award at the Busan International Film Festival in Korea. The documentary is 215 minutes long and took 10 years of research, filming and post-production to bring to the cinema. See: Indonesia’s ‘The Seen and Unseen,’ ‘Marlina’ Share Tokyo FILMeX Grand Prize.

Victory at High Court!

Nov 5, 2017

A statement on behalf of victorious parties on October 27, 2017 in “construction asbestos litigation” before the Tokyo High Court said the ruling solidly established the government’s liability to compensate asbestos-injured construction workers, assigned asbestos manufacturers’ responsibility to compensate construction workers with mesothelioma, asbestosis, lung cancer and diffuse pleural thickening and ordered manufacturers to compensate self-employed workers. The text calls on the Government to create a compensation fund for construction workers and take immediate steps to resolve ongoing litigation. See: Statement of plaintiffs, their attorneys and supporters on the Tokyo High Court ruling on October 27, 2017.

Calls for Asbestos Relief Scheme

Nov 3, 2017

An editorial published on November 2, 2017 called on the Japanese Government to “craft a new program to provide relief to the victims, many of whom are aging and ailing” in the wake of the country’s first high court ruling on asbestos damages to construction workers, thousands of whom have died from occupational diseases. The landmark verdict handed down on October 27, 2017 in Tokyo ordered the Government and four building material makers to pay compensation to 62 plaintiffs; this decision reversed a district court ruling that had absolved the government and firms of liability. See: Addressing workers’ health damage from asbestos.

Legal Precedent!

Oct 27, 2017

A major victory was achieved today for construction workers in a verdict handed down by the Tokyo High Court which recognized the negligence of the government and asbestos manufacturers for injuries caused by asbestos exposures at construction sites. The decision of the Presiding Judge Atsuo Nagano overturned the ruling of the Yokohama District Court, which had dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim. While several asbestos cases have been won against the government, this is only the 3rd against manufacturers and the first such High Court decision. See: 石綿訴訟、国とメーカー4社に賠償命令…控訴審 [Asbestos lawsuit, orders for compensation to 4 companies and manufacturers ... appeal trial].

Landmark Ruling in Yokohama

Oct 25, 2017

On October 24, 2017, the Yokohama District Court awarded 61 asbestos-injured construction workers or surviving family members a total of ¥306 million (US$2.7m) compensation, from the Japanese government and two asbestos manufacturers of construction materials, for occupational exposures to asbestos. Judge Yuko Otake’s verdict found that the Japanese government had failed to enact adequate asbestos regulations and that Nozawa Corporation and Nichias Corporation had neglected to warn their workers of the asbestos hazard. See: 61 plaintiffs seek ¥1.7 billion from state and materials makers for asbestos ills, some to share ¥306 million.

Construction Workers Victory!

Oct 24, 2017

On October 24, a verdict by the Yokohoma District Court awarded damages against the Japanese Government and 2 major asbestos product manufacturers to construction workers injured by occupational asbestos exposures. In previous cases, 6 other courts ordered the Government to compensate construction workers; two district courts awarded damages against manufacturers. On October 27, the Tokyo High Court will hand down its verdict in another asbestos action by construction workers that was originally rejected by the Yokohama District Court. See: 国とメーカーに賠償命令 建設アスベスト神奈川訴訟 企業責任、認定2例目 [Kanagawa court holds companies responsible for asbestos exposures to construction workers].

Film: Sennan Asbestos Disaster

Oct 23, 2017

A Japanese documentary film entitled Sennan Asbestos Disaster by director Kazuo Hara won the Citizen’s Prize at the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival earlier this month (October 2017) and on October 22 won the Mercenat Award at the Busan International Film Festival in Korea. The film will be screened at other festivals in the coming months. It is 215 minutes long and took 10 years of research, filming and post-production to bring to the cinema. See press release: Sennan Asbestos Disaster.

Achieving Total Asbestos Ban

Oct 21, 2017

The steps needed to achieve a total ban on asbestos in Japan and conclusions drawn from the process are described in a paper just published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The authors described missed opportunities and delays and highlighted the impact of the asbestos scandal – known as “the Kubota Shock” – which propelled asbestos onto the national agenda. Also mentioned are the Global Asbestos Congress 2000 (Brazil) and the Global Asbestos Congress 2004 (Japan) which signified the growth of concern regarding the asbestos hazard around the world. See: Experience of Japan in Achieving a Total Ban on Asbestos.

Asbestos Hazard: Bus Drivers

Oct 16, 2017

The mesothelioma death in December 2010 of a bus driver employed by the Nishitetsu company has been certified as occupationally caused due to workplace exposures to asbestos present in the charcoal gas generating furnaces used in buses during and after World War II. As of May 1948, there were 5,000 "charcoal buses"; they were phased out in the early 1950s. The deceased, who started work at Nishitetsu in 1947 in Omuta City, Japan inspected his vehicle every morning before starting work. Prior to this case, the asbestos hazard to bus drivers had not been recognized by the authorities. See: 石綿 西鉄バス元車掌も労災認定 木炭バスで吸引 [Asbestos: Nishitetsu bus conductor died from occupational exposure].

Asbestos Hotlines!

Oct 4, 2017

Today and tomorrow (October 4 & 5), Japan’s Association of Asbestos Victims and their Families in cooperation with legal professionals are holding a free telephone consultation service to provide support and advice to asbestos victims. This service, which is always over-subscribed, will be even more so in light of advice issued on October 2, 2017 by the Ministry of Labor urging asbestos victims to sue the Government for compensation!
See Photo: Abestos hotline service.

Ministry Encourages Victims’ Lawsuits

Oct 2, 2017

Today (October 2, 2017), a spokesperson for Japan’s Labor Ministry said it is encouraging former asbestos plant workers with occupational diseases and the families of deceased workers to file lawsuits against the government so that compensation payouts can be made to thousands of asbestos claimants eligible to receive them after a 2014 Supreme Court decision found the government responsible for asbestos exposures affecting plant workers in Osaka Prefecture. By the end of last month ¥2.1 billion (US$18 million+) had been paid out to 236 plaintiffs; another 197 claims are being processed. See: Former workers exposed to asbestos urged to sue Japanese government to claim damages.

International Solidarity

Sep 13, 2017

A letter signed by global leaders in the fight for asbestos justice was submitted to the Yokohama District Court on September 7, 2017 and the Tokyo High Court on September 13 urging them “to support the rights of Japanese asbestos victims and issue a judgment which is fair to them and their families.” The letter relates to lawsuits brought by claimants and families regarding toxic exposures to asbestos during employment in the construction sector. The main defendants in these cases are the government and former manufacturers of asbestos-containing construction materials. See: International Joint Letter to Tokyo and Yokohama Courts.

Occupational Asbestos Hazard

Sep 6, 2017

AN analysis of 6,916 Japanese workers diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) between 2008 and 2013 was undertaken to identify groups at risk of asbestos exposures, to facilitate the development of effective health surveillance strategies. Unsurprisingly, workers from the construction industry were found to have a high risk of ARDs; these workers “are still being exposed to asbestos during maintenance, renovation, and asbestos removal from buildings with asbestos containing products.” See: Compensation for Asbestos-Related Diseases in Japan: Utilization of Standard Classifications of Industry and Occupations.

Asbestos Scandal: Schools

Jul 12, 2017

Following its second survey of asbestos in schools undertaken in 2016, Japan’s Education Ministry announced last week that 227 institutions in 14 of the country’s 47 prefectures had chimneys using asbestos as heat insulation. Local governments responsible for the 227 public kindergartens, elementary, junior high and high schools with old chimneys that may scatter asbestos were instructed to address this matter. Amongst the public schools with risky chimneys, Hokkaido had 116 schools, the largest number, followed by Ishikawa Prefecture, with 34, and Tokyo, with 22. See: Japan study finds chimneys at 227 public schools at risk for scattering asbestos.

Public Asbestos Anxiety

Jun 15, 2017

The free telephone hotline operated on June 13 and 14, 2017 by the Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos-related Disease Victims and their Families received more than 1,000 calls from all over Japan on five telephone lines with long queues of calls building up from concerned citizens. The majority of questions related to the presence of asbestos-containing products in Japanese homes but there were also calls from people concerned about having contracted asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos litigation in Japan is a fairly new concept but lobbying by campaigners to access new public and private sources of support for the injured is ongoing.

Asbestos: Public Housing

Jun 13, 2017

A new survey has revealed that asbestos was used in the construction of 22,000 public housing apartments in Japan. Professor Takehiko Murayama from the Tokyo Institute of Technology has estimated that this contamination could have damaged the health of more than 230,000 people. One former resident, 53-year-old Kazuko Saito, was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2015; she had lived in contaminated public housing from 1963 until 1984. On June 13 and 14, The Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos-related Disease Victims and their Families will operate a free hotline for enquiries related to asbestos exposures. See: Former resident develops mesothelioma.

Asbestos Scandal

Jun 12, 2017

A June 9, 2017 exposé in the Mainichi Shimbun, one of Japan’s major newspapers, revealed that between September 2012 and April 2016 customs bureaus in Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe allowed the import of asbestos-containing products despite prohibitions under the Industrial Safety and Health Act. According to the article, dealers in eight cases were asked to subsequently sanitize import declarations. Details of this scandal were obtained following the submission by staff from the Mainichi of an information disclosure request and an official complaint to the Minister of Finance. See: 3 customs bureaus suspected of asking dealers to cover up asbestos imports.

Asbestos Class Action

May 23, 2017

Fifteen claimants have brought an asbestos lawsuit in the Yamaguchi district court for hazardous occupational exposures experienced between 1954 and 2011 at factories belonging to the Ube Board Company (now in liquidation) in Ube City, Osaka City and Fuji City, Japan. Some of the plaintiffs are suffering from asbestos-related diseases including lung cancer and mesothelioma; others have already died from their asbestos injuries. The lawsuit is claiming millions of yen in damages from the Japanese State and the company, which was a building materials manufacturer. See: アスベスト被害で国を提訴 [Suing the State for Asbestos Injuries].

Mass Rally in Tokyo

May 20, 2017

On Friday, May 19, 2017 three thousand construction workers held a mass outdoor meeting in Tokyo to mark the ninth anniversary of the first asbestos class action by construction workers in Japan. To date, there have been six judgments by district courts, five of which held the government responsible and one of which acknowledged the responsibility of the manufacturers of construction materials. The first high court judgment will be handed down in Autumn 2017. In the photograph below, the items held up – traditional paper fans called “uchiwa” – have the Japanese words for “apologize, compensate and eliminate” emblazoned across them. See: Picture of May 19, 2017 Tokyo demonstration.

Asbestos: An Imminent Hazard

May 18, 2017

Investigations by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism have revealed that the presence of asbestos-containing products in small scale premises remains a potent health hazard to workers and members of the public. A report issued on May 17, 2017 found that up to 80,000 small private buildings out of a total of 1.3 million were contaminated, with up to 30,000 having failed to take appropriate measures to neutralize the hazard as a result of which highly hazardous products such as sprayed asbestos remain in place. See: Up to 82,000 small buildings estimated to still use asbestos: gov't survey.

Construction Workers Victory

Feb 15, 2017

On February 14, 2017, Judge Toshio Uchino of the Sapporo District Court ordered the government to pay a total of ¥176 million (~US$1.54m) in damages to former construction workers from Hokkaido with asbestos-related diseases and family members of those who have already died from these diseases, saying: “The state should have informed the workers’ employers by 1980 of the need to use dust-proof masks.” This is the fifth district court ruling which has found the government fully or partially responsible for asbestos-related damages at construction sites in Japan. See: Court orders government to pay ¥176 million to asbestos victims.

Japan Asbestos Mobilization

Feb 1, 2017

An asbestos conference at the Tokyo Institute of Technology on January 28 and 29, 2017 provided the opportunity for asbestos experts from the UK and Japan to provide updated information on technical and regulatory developments pertaining to the analysis, removal, remediation and disposing of asbestos-containing materials. A presentation given by ban asbestos campaigner Laurie Kazan-Allen see: The Global Campaign to Ban Asbestos 2017!) considered the progress being made around the world by those fighting to outlaw asbestos use and provide support for the injured. See: Image from conference discussion session..

Leadership in Asbestos Research

Jan 19, 2017

Japanese public health expert Professor Ken Takahashi will take the reins as the director of the Sydney-based Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) in February 2017. He will be taking over from Professor Nico van Zandwijk who has led ADRI since 2007. Published papers by Professor Takahashi have shown the correlation between national asbestos consumption and the incidence of mesothelioma deaths. Commenting on his new appointment, Professor Takahashi said: “Asbestos-related diseases are preventable. I want to protect workers around the world.” See: In the News / Ken Takahashi / Expert continues battle against asbestos-related diseases.

Asbestos Compensation in Japan

Dec 21, 2016

A press release issued on December 20, 2016 by Japan’s Ministry of Labor disclosed that over a thousand people exposed to asbestos at 918 workplaces throughout Japan were compensated for various asbestos related conditions in 2015 under workers compensation schemes, with cases of mesothelioma (551) and lung cancer (381) accounting for 88% of the claims. As of March 2016 more than 15,000 individuals with asbestos-related diseases had been compensated under workers compensation schemes with a further 9,000 compensated by relief schemes administered by the Ministry of the Environment’ Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency.

Asbestos Lawsuit against Government

Sep 19, 2016

The Japanese Government is being sued by former employees and family members of deceased workers from Nichias, a Japanese building materials manufacturer, in a multimillion yen action in the Gifu district court in central Japan. The case relates to injuries sustained as a result of asbestos exposures at the company’s Hashima factory in Gifu Prefecture. According to the complaint, toxic exposures took place from 1954 as a result of which the claimants contracted lung cancer and asbestosis. See: ニチアス元従業員の遺族、石綿被害で国賠提訴 計4290万円求め [Former Nichias employees and bereaved relatives issue asbestos lawsuit for a total of 42.9 million yen in damages].

Asbestos on Conference Agenda

Sep 8, 2016

The Public Services International (PSI), a global trade union federation representing 20 million workers in 154 countries many of whom work for local government, is holding its 13th Asia Pacific Regional Conference (APRECON) in Fukuoka, Japan on October 9-12, 2016. Sugio Furuya, Chair of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network, will be making the first panel presentation. His talk is entitled: Regional campaign on asbestos use, recognition in our industries and community. The next speaker, Ben Thompson from Australia, will speak about: Asbestos in our community, a trade union issue. See: Announcement by Public Services International.

Mesothelioma Death of Civic Leader

Sep 3, 2016

Fifty-six year old Tashigi Yukio Maxima who had served on the Satte city council died suddenly on August 17, 2016 of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Before being elected to local government, he had been President of the Parent and Teachers Association, a member of the Board of Education, coach of youth softball and soccer teams. Due to his status as a self-employed person, it has not yet ascertained where and when he was exposed to the asbestos which caused his disease. He is survived by his widow and three sons. See: 幸手市議・巻島幸男さん [Satte’s Tashigi Yukio Maxima].

Outreach Support for Asbestos Victims

Aug 8, 2016

On August 5, 2016 a free telephone hotline was operational in Gunma Prefecture, one of Japan’s asbestos hotspots. From 10 am to 4 pm callers were able to consult with healthcare, benefits and legal advisers at the Gunma Occupational Safety and Health Center about a variety of issues related to the treatment of and support for people with asbestos-related diseases. It is believed that 1,400 people every year are diagnosed in Japan with mesothelioma, one type of deadly asbestos cancer. See: アスベス. 被害の相談会 専門スタッフ対応、電話も無料 あす高崎で /群馬 [Asbestos: free phone line tomorrow in Gunma Prefecture].

Who Foots the Bill for Asbestos Disease?

Jul 21, 2016

A July 2016 commentary for casualty underwriters reflects on the wide-ranging implications of a decision handed down on January 29, 2016 by the District Court of Kyoto which ordered nine manufacturers of asbestos-containing construction materials to pay a total of JPY 112 million (~US$1 million) to 23 workers and their families who died from or are suffering from asbestosis and/or lung cancer. A significant difference of opinion exists amongst courts in Japan over whether manufacturers can be held liable with district courts in Tokyo, Fukuoka, Osaka and Yokohama issuing verdicts which favoured manufacturers. See: Asbestos Court Decision and Implications in Japan.

Mobilization of Victims Continues

Jun 27, 2016

Japanese asbestos victims, campaigners and supporters continue to press for asbestos justice with meetings this past weekend (June 25 & 26, 2016). On Saturday, June 25, scores of delegates took part in an event in Amagasaki City to mark the 11th anniversary of the Kubota Shock, a term signifying the moment when Japan’s epidemic of asbestos disease burst into the public consciousness with news that workers and community members had contracted diseases as a result of the operations of major Japanese corporations (see: Asbestos Profile: Japan). On June 26, the annual meeting of the national network of asbestos victims and their families was held. See: Photo of meeting marking the 11th anniversary of Japan’s Kubota Shock.

Japan Asbestos Victims Meeting

May 29, 2016

On Saturday, May 28, 2016, Ban Asbestos Japan (BANJAN) held its 28th annual meeting in Tokyo. The session was attended by 150+ victims, relatives and supporters. BANJAN’s discussions were preceded by an outreach initiative outside Sinjuku station during which BANJAN members distributed asbestos awareness material. Coming shortly after a recent mass demonstration in Tokyo by construction workers who demanded justice and support for the asbestos injured, there can be no doubt about the continuing resilience and commitment of Japan’s asbestos victims. See: Picture of BANJAN Mobilization in Tokyo.

Rally by Injured Construction Workers

May 25, 2016

Three thousand protesters attended a rally at Tokyo’s Hibiya amphitheater on May 20, 2016 demanding the Japanese government and manufacturers of asbestos-containing building materials compensate them for injuries contracted through workplace exposures. The demonstrators called for the establishment of an asbestos victims’ compensation fund financed by the government and negligent corporations. Union leaders, politicians and victims’ advocates addressed the rally. See: アスベスト被害 3000人決起元労働者や遺族「早期解決を」 [Asbestos protest: 3000 former workers and bereaved families demand “early resolution”].

Protest by Construction Workers

May 21, 2016

On May 20, 2016, 3,000 construction workers held a public rally in Tokyo in support of the rights of construction workers injured by asbestos exposures. The event was a physical manifestation of the frustration of those marginalized by workplace diseases which defendants refuse to acknowledge despite legal precedents recognizing the negligence of government agencies and commercial organizations which failed to protect workers from the asbestos hazard. After the rally, protesters demonstrated outside the headquarters of the Taiheiyo Cement Corporation, a manufacturer of construction materials. See: Photo of event.

Asbestos Legacy at Air Base

May 16, 2016

Thousands of documents covering over twenty years which have been released under the US Freedom of Information Act reveal extensive pollution at Okinawa Island’s Kadena Air Base, the largest US Air Force installation in Asia. Years of neglect and accidents have polluted the infrastructure, land and water with toxins including asbestos, arsenic, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxin. Twenty thousand US service personnel and 3,000 Japanese workers are employed on this 46 square kilometre site. One hundred and eighty-four thousand civilians living in neighboring communities are also at risk from the pollution. See: Contamination: Kadena Air Base’s dirty secret.

Editorial on Asbestos Compensation

Feb 5, 2016

As recent verdicts deemed the Japan Government negligent for failing to act on the asbestos hazard and as manufacturers of building materials have also now been held liable, this editorial urges that guilty parties act urgently to make restitution to all the injured many of whom are suffering from asbestos diseases which can cause death in a very short time. The editorial calls on the government and others to collaborate on establishing an asbestos fund which would compensate various categories of injured people including asbestos mill workers, construction workers and the self-employed. See: Widening asbestos compensation.

Protests over Asbestos Injuries

Feb 2, 2016

On February 2, 2016, 1,000 protestors including asbestos-injured construction workers and family members demonstrated outside the Tokyo premises of Nichias Corporation, following a landmark ruling last week in the Kyoto District Court which found that product manufacturers could be held responsible for asbestos-related injuries amongst construction workers. Nichias executives, as well as those from other manufacturing companies where rallies also took place, refused to meet the protestors. Altogether, protests were held outside the premises of ten former asbestos manufacturing companies. See: Picture from February 2, 2016 demonstration outside premises of Nichias Corporation.

Court Victory for Construction Workers

Jan 30, 2016

During a month of legal victories by Japanese asbestos plaintiffs, yesterday (Jan. 29, 2016) the Kyoto District Court ordered the Government and building material manufacturers to pay compensation of 216 million yen (US$1.78m) to 27 construction workers and their families for illnesses contracted after occupational asbestos exposures. This was the first Japanese court ruling to recognize the responsibility of building material manufacturers for asbestos injuries; nine companies were told to pay a total of 110 million yen (US$908,000) to 23 plaintiffs. See: State, building supply makers ordered to pay asbestos compensation.

Huge Victory for Construction Workers

Jan 22, 2016

On January 21, 2016, construction workers and their families won a huge victory in the Osaka District Court with a verdict that held the Japanese Government liable for its failure to take measures to protect workers from hazardous asbestos exposures. This is the third such victory with previous favorable rulings from district courts in Tokyo and Fukuoka. Among other findings, the Osaka Court said the government should have prohibited the use of all types of asbestos, including chrysotile (white) asbestos, by 1995 at the latest. See: 国に3度目の賠償命令 建設アスベスト大阪訴訟 [Third victory for asbestos-injured construction workers in Osaka legal verdict].

Asbestos Lost and Found

Dec 21, 2015

It was announced last week by a spokesperson for the High Court that 58 of the 168 rooms in the Tokyo building which houses the Tokyo district and high courts will be closed for an unspecified length of time due to the possible contamination by asbestos which resulted from asbestos removal work done on the premises. A few days later (December 18), Japan’s Ministry of Labor announced that prefectural labor bureaus and labor inspection offices had disposed of asbestos-related documents in contradiction to orders issued in 2005 by the Ministry to retain all asbestos-related documents for future use. See: One-third of Tokyo courtrooms to be closed.

Mapping Asbestos Disease

Dec 14, 2015

Campaigners in Japan have succeeding in forcing the Ministry of Labor to disclose information on all businesses which recognized cases of asbestos-related diseases since 2005. By the end of 2013, there were a total of 9,035 cases, of which 4,668 came from exposures in the construction industry and 3,367 from all other sectors. The Ministry will be announcing updated figures soon after which asbestos victim support groups will operate a free telephone hotline to answer queries from those who think they might have been affected. See: Poster advertising free phone consultation service for victims and families.

Mesothelioma Research Findings

Nov 23, 2015

Reporting the findings of a multi-institutional study of trimodality therapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma which consisted of induction chemotherapy followed by extrapleural pneumonectomy and radiation therapy, Japanese researchers have concluded that while “this phase II study met the predefined primary endpoints… its risk/benefit ratio was not satisfactory.” See: Trimodality strategy for treating malignant pleural mesothelioma: results of a feasibility study of induction pemetrexed plus cisplatin followed by extrapleural pneumonectomy and postoperative hemithoracic radiation.

Delegation Visits Amagaski City

Jun 29, 2015

Delegates from Belgium and Italy joined Japanese asbestos activists on June 26, 2015 at a meeting with the Mayor of Amagasaki City, a town which has been devastated by asbestos pollution created by the industrial operations of the Kubota company. The international visitors included Bruno Pesce and Alessandro Pugno from AFEVA, one of Italy’s most high-profile and active asbestos victims’ groups, and Eric Jonckheere, President of the Belgian Asbestos Victims Group. The delegation also took part in events to mark the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the Amagasaki Association of Victims and Families of Asbestos Victims. See: Photo of Meeting.

Delays Created Environmental Epidemic

Jun 28, 2015

Failure by the Kubota company, one of Japan’s major asbestos manufacturers, to prevent hazardous environmental asbestos contamination near its former Kanzaki plant has produced an epidemic of asbestos-related cancer amongst people in the city of Amagasaki. In 1988, a doctor wrote on the notes of a mesothelioma patient “no history of working with asbestos… If a connection with asbestos were to be made, it would be the fact that this patient's home is located near the Kanzaki plant.” See: Silence over asbestos-related cancer deaths in 1980s draws renewed condemnation.

Asbestos Mobilization in Japan

Jun 1, 2015

High-profile activities involving thousands of asbestos victims, campaigners, trade unionists and government officials took place in Tokyo between May 22 and 30, 2015. The 7th anniversary of landmark litigation on behalf of construction workers against the government and former asbestos manufactures was marked on May 22 with a huge public rally in the capital. One week later, members of the Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos-Related Disease and their Families met with officials from Ministries of Labor, Health and Environment. The following day was the annual meeting of the Ban Asbestos Network of Japan (BANJAN). See: Photo May 22, 2015 rally.

Supreme Court Asbestos Ruling

Feb 18, 2015

For the first time, on Feb 17, 2015 Japan’s Supreme Court upheld a judgment recognizing the negligence and liability of an asbestos-using company for a non-occupational asbestos-related death – that of Kojiro Yamauchi who for 20 years worked 200 meters from the Kuboto Corporation asbestos factory in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture. By a unanimous decision, the five-panel Court, ordered Kubota to pay ¥31.9 million ($267,000) in damages to Mr. Yamauchi’s relatives. Both the Kobe District Court and Osaka High Court had ordered Kubota to pay damages to the Yamauchi family. See: Top court upholds Kubota’s liability in asbestos death case.

Update on Victims’ Mobilization

Dec 20, 2014

As a result of continuing pressure exerted by Japanese asbestos victims’ groups, the Ministry of Labor disclosed the names of companies where asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) have been recognized as occupationally-caused. This information has been recorded by the victims’ groups on a database which can be consulted by the public. On December 18 and 19, the Japanese network of asbestos victims and their supporters operated a nationwide telephone consultation service for victims and their families. They received 200 calls. Japan has a high incidence of ARDs due to heavy use of asbestos. Asbestos was banned in phases, a full ban was reached in 2012. See: Japan Asbestos Profile.

Government to Settle Asbestos Claims

Oct 23, 2014

A Japanese Minister apologized on October 21, 2014 for deaths caused by asbestos exposure and announced that following the Supreme Court ruling of October 9, 2014, the government is anxious to settle claims brought by the injured and surviving family members. Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki told a press conference that offers will be made to settle the lawsuit pending in the Osaka High Court related to exposures at asbestos factories in the Sennan area between 1958 and 1971. See: Gov't to promptly settle Osaka High Court asbestos suit.

10 Year Anniversary Marked in Tokyo

Oct 4, 2014

The tenth anniversary of the Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos-related Disease Victims and Their Families is being marked today at an international gathering in Tokyo attended by Japanese, Korean and Indonesian campaigners. A new video has been produced for this occasion. The first 1.43 minutes is a message (in Japanese) from an asbestos victim hospitalized in Hokkaido who is unable to join the activities. The rest of the 32 minute video is a touching tribute to the thousands of Japanese victims and supporters who have revolutionized their country’s asbestos dialogue. This film is highly recommended. See: Anniversary Video.

Environmental Compensation Tops $100m

Jul 7, 2014

According to an article in the Japanese press on July 6, 2014, the Kubota Corporation has now paid out a total of $100+ million to 265 claimants with asbestos-related diseases who were environmentally exposed to asbestos liberated by processing operations at the company’s Kanzaki plant. These payments were made following a 2006 agreement negotiated by the company and local victims and relatives from the community. Japan, a major and long-standing asbestos consumer, did not implement a comprehensive ban on the use of all asbestos-containing products until 2012.

Japanese Asbestos Victims Meet

Jun 3, 2014

On Saturday May 31, Ban Asbestos Japan (BANJAN) held its 26th annual meeting in Tokyo. The discussions were preceded by an outdoor rally and outreach activities with members of the public. The subject addressed during the discussions was “Ten years after the Global Asbestos Congress 2004.” The keynote presentation was given by Professor Ken Takahashi. Other speakers included asbestos victims, family members, Dr. Yuji Natori and trade unionist Satoru Takyu. Several BANJAN members who took part are due to take part in discussions with Korean and Indonesian activists in Seoul this week. See: Picture of BANJAN meeting.

Asbestos-related Lung Cancer

May 13, 2014

Yesterday (May 12), a claimant’s verdict was issued by Judge Ryoji Kudo of the Kobe District Court who dismissed an earlier ruling which found that lung cancer contracted by a 60-year old construction worker was not caused by occupational asbestos exposure due to the relatively low level of asbestos fibers in his body. The judge ruled that the government’s criteria for the recognition of asbestos-related disease based on the number of asbestos fibers was unreasonable. The verdict recognized the cause of death as occupational asbestos exposure. See: Kobe court rules criteria for recognizing asbestos-related lung cancer unreasonable.

Lung Cancer Monitoring at Hotspots

Apr 28, 2014

Government funding has been allocated for the 2015 launch of a pilot lung cancer screening program of at-risk residents in Japanese municipalities where asbestos factories had been located. In 2006, the Environment Ministry undertook health surveys of residents in collaboration with local governments of seven regions where asbestos plants had been sited, including Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture. Asbestos consumption continued in Japan long after other developed countries had banned its use. Japanese prohibitions were phased in over a period of years with the final use of asbestos being made illegal in 2012. See: Asbestos lung project in Japan set for 2015.

National Asbestos Legacy

Apr 16, 2014

The Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos Related Disease Victims and their Families has reported the deaths of people who had worked at recycling sites where asbestos-contaminated hemp bags were processed; family members of these workers and local residents have also died from exposure to the asbestos generated at this site. Ten deaths have been recorded in the city of Sakai from asbestos-related cancers. The situation at similar recycling plants in Tokyo, Fukuoka Prefecture and Saitama Prefecture remains to be clarified. See: 10 people in hemp sack recycling centers reportedly dead from asbestos-related sickness.

Asbestos Epidemic

Jan 8, 2014

On January 7, 2014, Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced that 28 Japanese workers had been officially recognised as having contracted asbestos-related diseases after toxic exposures at US military bases in Okinawa Prefecture; 21 of them have died. The workers from the base carried out demolition of asbestos-containing buildings, spraying of asbestos, waste disposal and collection, and repair and manufacturing of machines. Asbestos has been found at former US military sites returned to Japan; Japanese workers renovated bases without prior notification of the asbestos hazard. See: Japan Workers Sick from Asbestos.

Government Liable for Exposures

Dec 25, 2013

On December 25, 2013, in a landmark ruling by the Osaka High Court, the Japanese Government was held liable for asbestos-related diseases due to its failure to protect workers from harmful exposures. This is the first time such a judgment has been handed down. The 58 claimants in this case, who include former asbestos mill workers from the Osaka South Prefecture, were seeking 700 million yen (U.S. $6.7 million) in damages; today's ruling awarded them 340m, nearly double that awarded by a lower court. See: High court holds gov't liable for asbestos exposure for 1st time; also see: Asbestos Health Hazard in Seenan.

Mesothelioma Voyage

Jul 19, 2013

Japanese mesothelioma patient Mituse Yamashita set sail on July 18th from the Japanese port of Yokohama on an 85-day voyage which will take her around the world [see: photo (2012) with Mituse on the left]. The three-month journey will take her to 19 countries including Vietnam, Egypt, Greece, Jamaica and Mexico. Mrs. Yamashita was diagnosed with the asbestos cancer mesothelioma 9 years ago and her enthusiasm for this challenge has inspired all her colleagues in the Ban Asbestos Japan network. She is sailing on the 80th Peace Boat, a Japanese institution dedicated to the promotion of world peace, human rights and respect for the environment. See: Peace Boat website.

Appeal Court Win for Asbestos Victims

Jul 8, 2013

On June 27, 2013, the Tokyo High Court upheld a decision by the Tokyo District Court which had found that a 61 year-old lung cancer victim exposed to asbestos at work had a legitimate work-related injury; the government's criteria which barred such a claim were, the Court said, "unreasonable." The claimant had worked as an engineer at a steelmaking plant from 1973-1984. Officials refused to recognize his claim on the basis of a "low" lung fiber burden. It is thought this ruling will benefit four other claimants with similar lawsuits in Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe. See: High court rules criteria for recognizing lung cancer caused by asbestos unreasonable.

Asbestos-Related Diseases Toolkit

May 3, 2013

On May 2, 2013, a "Toolkit for the Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases" was uploaded to the website of the University of Occupational and Environmental Health. This resource, which was developed with the support of the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat, the World Health Organization and the International Labour Office, is intended to act as a reference point for people working to eliminate asbestos-related diseases (ARDs). The authors point out that the "most effective means to prevent ARDs is to stop using asbestos." The document references a vast array of useful papers and links. See: Toolkit for the Elimination of Asbestos-Related Diseases.

Tsunami Asbestos Pollution

Jan 28, 2013

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation program Lateline today broadcast a segment focusing on the high levels of asbestos contamination found in tsunami-affected communities in Japan. Research has confirmed 14 cases where levels exceeded the WHO's safety limit. Asbestos-containing products and debris remain in the wreckage of buildings destroyed during the disaster. In the coming months, the authorities in Ishinomaki City plan to demolish 4,000 damaged buildings; due to the project's scale, workers with no knowledge of the asbestos hazard are likely to be employed. See: Tsunami leaves Japan with toxic asbestos legacy.

Landmark Victory for Workers

Dec 6, 2012

On December 5, 2012 the Tokyo District Court held the Japanese Government liable for asbestos-related injuries sustained by construction workers exposed to asbestos as a result of the Government's failure to deal with the asbestos hazard. Judge Masamitsu Shiseki awarded the sum of ¥1 billion compensation to 308 Tokyo workers. A similar class-action lawsuit, the first of its kind to be filed, was lost at the Yokohoma District Court in May 2012. At least four similar actions are pending in regional courts. Japan did not begin to phase out the use of chrysotile asbestos until 2004. See: Tokyo court orders state to pay ¥1 billion to compensate asbestos victims.

Post-Earthquake Hazard

Oct 10, 2012

Sampling done after the 2011 Japanese earthquake have revealed hazardous levels of asbestos contamination. The study, which was undertaken by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Environment Ministry, at sites in Miyagi, Iwate, Fukushima, Tochigi, Ibaraki and other prefectures found 10.6 and 783.5 asbestos fibers per liter of air at 14 sites. The World Health Organization's safety limit is 10. The highest level, 783.5, was found at a hotel being demolished in Aoba Ward, Sendai where no attempt had been made to deal with the asbestos present in the building's exterior prior to demolition work commencing. See: Asbestos high in quake zone.

"Medical asbestos" caused mesothelioma

Sep 5, 2012

Labor authorities in Yamaguchi, Japan have recognized the first case of mesothelioma caused by occupational exposure to asbestos-contaminated talc used on surgical gloves. Nurse Mitsue Kawamura, 52 years old, was exposed from 1981 to 1985 when working at a medical clinic. While this is the first such case arising from occupational exposure to toxic gloves of a medical professional, 15 cases have been recognized by the Japanese authorities for people exposed to the asbestos-contaminated talc in the production of rubber goods. In 2006, Japan banned the use of talc with a content of over 0.1% asbestos. See: Labor office recognizes ex-nurse suffered tumor after inhaling asbestos.

Landmark case: partial success

Aug 9, 2012

A precedent was set on August 7 by the Kobe Court which recognized that a mesothelioma death had been caused by environmental exposure. Asbestos from the Kubota Corporation's Amagasaki plant was responsible for the death of Kojiro Yamauchi who, for 20 years, had worked at a factory 200 meters away. His family was awarded 32 million yen (US$406,744) from Kubota but a case brought against the Government failed. The Kobe Court denied compensation to the family of mesothelioma victim Ayako Yasui who had lived within 1.5 km of the same Kubota factory for 35 years. See: Kubota ruled liable for asbestos death.

Scientists Call for Asbestos Ban

Aug 2, 2012

A paper entitled "Elimination of asbestos use and asbestos-related diseases: An unfinished story," has just become available on the website of Cancer Science, the official journal of the Japanese Cancer Association. The authors call for a "stop to the use of all asbestos," as the most effective way of reducing the burden of asbestos-related diseases, and urge the international community to "promote worldwide cooperation involving countries with a wide range of experiences in asbestos… (to bring) together complementing technologies and experiences to match the varied needs of the beneficiaries." See: Elimination of asbestos use and asbestos-related diseases: An unfinished story.

Mesothelioma from 1995 Earthquake

Jul 9, 2012

On Friday (July 6), the Akashi Municipal Government announced that an employee who had assisted with the clean-up after the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake has been diagnosed with mesothelioma. The earthquake affected Kobe, Awaji, Ashiya and Nishinomiya and their surrounding areas. The 40-year-old man, a member of the Akashi environment division, handled waste for up to four months after the disaster. It is anticipated that he will file a claim for public workers' compensation, which is likely to be the first mesothelioma claim by a civil servant exposed to asbestos as a result of this disaster. See: Kobe earthquake rubble handler develops cancer and IBAS publication Killing the Future (p 24).

Legal victories for asbestos victims

Jun 30 2012

On June 28, a lawsuit on behalf of the families of 5 former workers who died of lung cancer or mesothelioma succeeded when the Kobe District Court ordered Nippon Express Co. to pay a total of 137 million yen (US $1.7M) for neglecting to protect workers from the asbestos hazard. Four of the families had previously sued another defendant (Kubota); that case was settled in March with the company paying 10 million yen (US $125,290) for each death. The other victory was in an administrative case relating to an asbestos-related lung cancer fatality brought against the government in Tokyo District Court.

Death of Renowned Scientist

Jun 12, 2012

The death was announced today of Professor Masazumi Harada, the physician whose study of Japanese mercury poisoning led to the identification of Minamata disease. As a student at Kumamoto University, Harada began his medical examinations of the victims of mercury poisoning in 1961. He went on to become the world's leading expert on this disease. He was also interested in other environmental and occupational catastrophes. In the preface to the IBAS publication: Killing the Future - Asbestos Use in Asia, Professor Harada called asbestos "a silent assassin," and "the most lethal of all occupational killers." See: Minamata disease authority Masazumi Harada dies at 77.

Victory for Yoshizaki Family!

May 29, 2012

Today the family of Tadashi Yoshizaki won justice, when the Osaka High Court upheld a 2011 lower court ruling that acknowledged his death from mesothelioma had been caused by the negligent actions of his employer, Nippon Express. While the earlier verdict of the Osaka District Court had ordered Nippon Express and Nichias, the owner of the asbestos factory in Nara where Mr. Yoshizaki worked in the warehouse, to pay the sum of 26 million JPY (US $327,000) between them, the 2012 decision exempted Nichias, allocating the fine solely to Nippon Express.

Japan Achieves Total Asbestos Ban

March 1, 2012

Since the use of crocidolite and amosite were banned in Japan in 1995, a series of prohibitions has been implemented on the use of chrysotile asbestos in specific processes and products such as joint sheets, gaskets and gland packing. The new use of chrysotile was prohibited in building and friction materials as of October 1, 2004; this accounted for over 90% of Japanese chrysotile consumption. In 2005, Japan Minister Hidehisa Otsuji announced plans to implement a total asbestos ban within 3 years. Today, March 1, 2012, that ban has been achieved, with the remaining derogations for asbestos having expired.

Lawsuit for Para-occupational Exposure

Aug 25, 2011

A double tragedy in Fuji, Japan reached the Shizuoka District Court when the relatives of a 42-year old mesothelioma victim brought a case against the asbestos-cement pipe manufacturer Fuji Kako. The young woman, who in 2010 was diagnosed with the terminal asbestos cancer whilst caring for her Mother, who was also dying of mesothelioma, had attended the employer's onsite nursery from age 3 to 6. An offer by the company of 23 million yen ($300,000) has been rejected as insulting by the family. In Japan, lawsuits for exposure to a worker's asbestos-contaminated clothing are relatively rare. See: Family sues over woman's death from secondhand contact with asbestos.

Post-Catastrophe Contamination

Mar 28, 2011

Occupational health and safety specialists traveled to areas affected by the tsunami and earthquake last week to investigate levels of asbestos contamination. They inspected damaged buildings and located asbestos debris amidst the devastation in Miyagi prefecture and Wakabayashi ward. Fuyushi Nagakura from the Asbestos Center and Toyoki Nakao from Occupational Safety and Health Center took air samples in the city center and distributed masks. Their findings will be reported in due course. Before Japan banned the use of asbestos (2004), it was one of the world's leading asbestos consumers; although consumption decreased from the 1980s, in 2000 Japan still used 85,440 tonnes.

Honda Loses Asbestos Test Case

Dec 2, 2010

On December 1, 2010 the Tokyo District Court found in favor of mesothelioma claimant Hidenari Hane who had been exposed to asbestos whilst employed by a Honda subsidiary in Nagoya, Japan. From 1968 to 1969, Hane had worked as a mechanic replacing asbestos-containing brake parts. Awarding him a sum equivalent to $640,765, Judge Koichiro Matsumoto said that by the time these exposures took place "a major company like Honda should have been fully aware of the [asbestos] risks and the damages at the factory…'' Cases for asbestos damages due to exposures in the automotive sector are rare in Japan. Honda will appeal. See: Japan Today discussion.

Historic Verdict Against Government

May 20, 2010

Yesterday, Judge Konishi of the Osaka District Court issued a verdict ordering the Japanese Government to pay 430 million yen ($4.6 m) to 29 claimants including workers and residents who contracted asbestosis and lung cancer. Even though the State had been aware of the asbestos hazard before 1960, it had not ensured the implementation of protective measures. As a direct result of the Government's failures, the plaintiffs suffered the exposures which made them ill. A Japanese news analyst said this is the first time a central government has been found responsile for asbestos-related deaths. See: NHK World video report.

Recognition of Environmental ARDs

Apr 29, 2010

At the 6th meeting of the asbestos subcommittee of the Central Environment Council, an advisory body to the Japanese Minister of the Environment, on April 28, 2010 in Tokyo, a recommendation was approved to add asbestosis and diffuse pleural thickening to the list of compensatable diseases for injured people whose exposure to asbestos did not occur occupationally. Until now, this list had only included the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer. It is anticipated that these changes will be implemented from July 1, 2010.

Events Mark Asbestos Law Anniversary

Mar 29, 2010

A series of events took place in Tokyo last week to mark the fourth anniversary of the non-occupational asbestos victims' relief law. These included: a demonstration outside Sinjuku station (March 26), a mass meeting calling for fundamental improvements to asbestos laws (March 27) and the 22nd annual meeting of Ban Asbestos Japan (BANJAN). Delegates from Korea, including two former asbestos textile workers from Pusan and a representative of the construction trade union, took part in the BANJAN meeting.

Compensation for Japanese Victims

Jan 20, 2010

An international seminar is being held in Tokyo on February 2, 2010 to consider methods used by national governments to compensate victims whose exposure to asbestos was non-occupational. Speakers from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK will detail schemes established in their countries for distributing benefits to this category of injured people. This meeting is being organized by the Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency, the body responsible for setting up such a relief scheme in Japan.