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2014年10月12日 (日)

アスベスト判決 「泉南」の教訓を対策に生かせ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Govt must use Sennan case as lesson for future relief of asbestos victims
アスベスト判決 「泉南」の教訓を対策に生かせ

The government’s negligence in failing to mandate necessary regulations has led to extensive damage caused by asbestos — this was the recent judicial decision made on asbestos-related health problems.

The government must accept the ruling seriously and take all possible countermeasures.

In its ruling on two lawsuits filed by 89 plaintiffs, the Supreme Court on Thursday determined that the state was responsible for the damage suffered by 82 plaintiffs and ordered it to pay them compensation. The 89 plaintiffs comprise former employees who suffered from asbestosis and lung cancer after working at an asbestos spinning mill in the Sennan district, southern Osaka Prefecture, and their bereaved families.

Health damage due to asbestos was discovered in 1958 during a survey conducted by the then Labor Ministry. But it was not until 1971 that the ministry made it mandatory to install ventilation systems at factories and plants. The top court denounced the delay as “quite unreasonable.”

The ruling harshly criticized nonfeasance on the part of administrative offices. The ruling illustrates the top court’s stance that the damage suffered by patients due to the delay in introduction of regulations must be relieved, as in a 2004 ruling on a lawsuit filed in connection with lung disease caused by dust inhalation inside coal mines in the Chikuho district, Fukuoka Prefecture, and a ruling in the same year on a Minamata disease lawsuit filed by residents in the Kansai region.

Almost all the asbestos factories were operated by small and mid-size companies. The Supreme Court likely gave much weight to the government’s responsibility for leaving the task of ensuring labor safety in the hands of such operators with insufficient funds.

The court sent a case by some of the plaintiffs back to the Osaka High Court in order to calculate the amount of compensation. Of the 89 plaintiffs, 14 have already died.

Solution needed soon

The government should seek early solutions through such means as out-of-court settlements.

Asbestos, which offers superior fire resistance, was imported in large quantities from the 1970s through the 1990s. Used mainly as a housing construction material, it was totally banned in 2006.

Many of the buildings in which asbestos was used have become obsolete. There is concern that the substance will be spread when the structures are dismantled. A large amount of asbestos is said to have been dispersed when houses collapsed in the aftermath of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

The government enforced the revised air pollution control law in June, making it mandatory for contractors to report plans for demolition work to local governments before it is conducted. Violators will be fined.

Local governments must work toward preventing health damage from asbestos by implementing such steps as on-the-spot inspections at demolition sites.

Relief measures are indispensable for those suffering from such diseases as lung cancer and mesothelioma.

More than 20,000 sufferers of asbestos-related disease have been recognized for work-related accident compensation or entitlement to benefits under the asbestos relief law. The number of such people is expected to increase further.

After asbestos has been inhaled, it takes 20 to 50 years for the effects to appear. Those who feel uneasy about whether they inhaled the substance in the past are advised to undergo testing.

The government, for its part, must provide additional support to develop treatment methods for asbestos-related diseases.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 11, 2014)Speech


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