Asbestos Conference in Amagasaki City
A conference commemorating the 2nd anniversary of the Kubota Shock was held in Amagasaki City on June 30 and July 1, 2007. It was organized by the Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos-related Disease Victims and Their Families, Mesothelioma, Pneumoconiosis and Asbestos Center, Amagasaki Workers' Safety and Health Center, Hyogo Occupational Safety and Health Center, Kansai Workers' Safety Center and Japan Occupational Safety and Health Resource Center. The governments of Amagasaki City and Hyogo Prefecture and Ban Asbestos Network Japan were supporting bodies of this important event.
More than 500 people gathered together during the two days. On June 30, Ms. Aya Shirai, Mayor of Amagasaki City expressed her respect to the deceased and solidarity with the victims and families' efforts. Photographer, Mr. Akira Imai introduced episodes with victims and their families whose pictures he had taken and pointed out the importance of ensuring that their messages were heard. A wife of a mesothelioma victim played guitar and another mesothelioma victim who had undergone surgery played the saxophone to honor the deceased and the audience. Representatives of victims, families and supporters gave testimonies on the current situation of asbestos issues in different areas. Dr. Yuji Natori updated the meeting on developments in the medical treatment of mesothelioma and emphasized the importance of mental care for victims and their families.
On July 1, Mr. Sugio Furuya, Secretary General of JOSHRC and BANJAN1 examined the current compensation/relief schemes. He introduced a paper entitled Asbestos: The Environmental Hazard by Mrs. Laurie Kazan-Allen from IBAS and spoke about BANJAN's plans to commemorate its 20th anniversary by holding an international asbestos conference in November, 2007 to highlight the:
true extent of asbestos health hazards, not only among workers but also among the public;
actions and efforts of asbestos victims and their families and their call for fair and equal compensation for all asbestos victims and their families including compensation for victims of non-occupational exposure.
Prof. Norio Kurumatani from Nara Medical University introduced findings of the Epidemiological Assessment of Mesothelioma Occurring amongst the Neighborhoods of Kubota's former Kanzaki Plant in Amagasaki City which he conducted with Dr. Shinji Kumagai. Dr. Kumagai from Osaka Prefectural Institute of Public Health introduced studies on health effects of asbestos used in an Eternit plant to its workers and the community in Casale Monferrato, Italy by Drs. Magnani C., Terracini B., etc. Both of them pointed out the need and importance of comprehensive studies to the Amagasaki-Kubota case learning from experiences in the Casale Monferrato case.
Attorney Hiroshi Isa summarized the current situation on asbestos litigation and related legal matters. Mr. Fuyushi Nagakura from the Asbestos Center focused on issues relating to asbestos in buildings and the collection and disposal of asbestos waste. He called for an asbestos-free society for our children in the future. The conference adopted The 2007 Amagasaki Declaration for an Asbestos-Free Society. (Appendix A)
July 2, 2007
The 2007 Amagasaki Declaration for an Asbestos-Free Society
On June 29, 2005, it was disclosed that many workers had died of asbestos-related diseases at the former Kanzaki plant of the Kubota Corp (Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture), that also five residents living or who had lived near the plant suffered from mesothelioma and two of them had died, and that the company was considering paying some consolation money to those neighborhood victims. This was triggered by three neighborhood mesothelioma victims who spoke out to the public in a courageous and assured manner. Taking this as a starting point, asbestos victims and their families throughout Japan, including those in Sen-nan and Kawachi-nagano Cities (Osaka Pref.), Oji and Ikaruga Towns (Nara Pref.), Hashima City (Gifu Pref.) and Yokohama (Kanagawa Pref.), became aware of the causes of their diseases, got angry and started to call for fair compensation and other necessary measurements to offending companies and the government.
In Amagasaki City, the Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos-related Disease Victims and Their Families and the Amagasaki Workers' Safety and Health Center has been jointly responding hard to inquiries and asking for help from numerous mesothelioma and other asbestos-related disease victims and their families. Those NGOs also required researchers to conduct an epidemiological study to identify the causation of those diseases. As a result, the causal relationship between cumulative neighborhood mesothelioma victims and asbestos used in the Kubota plant in the past was scientifically proved. The Amagasaki branch of the national association of asbestos victims and families was established and called on the Kubota Corporation for an apology and compensation. Finally, the President of Kubota met neighborhood victims and their families to officially apologize; Kubota set up a "relief scheme" for them without spending a long time in protracted legal disputes (litigation). As of now, 156 cases including 29 cases where victims were surviving have been processed by the company and "relief" monies ranging from 25 million JP Yen to 46 million JP Yen, depending on victims' age, the number of family members, etc., have been paid by the Kubota. (This money is added to the benefits from new relief scheme set by the government.)
Unfortunately the number of victims continues to increase. "Level ups in medical treatment and care", "expanding the coverage of the relief scheme (distance from the plant, duration of the living, etc.)", "relief for asbestos-related lung cancer cases for which recognitions under new relief law are limited", "periodical health check-ups and other supportive measures for affected residents" and "full clarification of the real extent of the current and future sufferings in the Amagasaki-Kubota case including epidemiological studies of former workers and residents" are immediate tasks imposed upon us.
We have held "the Amagasaki conference tracing 2 years after the Kubota Shock by photographs, testimonies and reports" on June 30 and July 1, 2007. Various efforts and developments for the past 2 years were examined. Victims and affected residents groups from different places, specialists and researchers contributed to the conference and the conference offered meaningful opportunities for face-to-face exchanges between them. The Amagasaki blanch and the Amagasaki OSH Center have opened their joint office near the Amagasaki station of JR line. We believe that this will serve as a powerful base to further our actions and solidarities.
Just 2 years after the Kubota Shock, through the whole of the conference, as our common subjects, we confirmed the urgent need for;
early detection, improvement of medical treatment and care for asbestos-related diseases including mesothelioma,
immediate revision of the new asbestos relief law and fair and equal compensation for all asbestos victims and their families,
stronger measures for dealing with existing asbestos during demolition, repair and other works,
full disclosure of the names of the companies where asbestos victims had been already compensated by the workers' compensation scheme,
a total ban on asbestos in Japan, Asia and all over the world and
solidarity with victims and ban asbestos groups in Asia and all over the world.
We declare that we will do our best to tackle the above subjects in order to achieve an asbestos-free society.
1 BANJAN: Ban Asbestos Japan; JOSHRC: Japan Occupational Safety and Health Resource Center