Tokyo, Japan – During a meeting of health experts on Wednesday, the Environment Ministry revealed alarming findings from a health survey it conducted related to asbestos.
According to the survey, 145 out of 804 people, about 18 percent, living near factories where asbestos was handled showed signs of pleural plaque, a disease directly caused by inhaling the deadly fibers. Victims’ lungs and pleural membranes become enlarged, which could lead to a mesothelioma tumor or lung cancer.
What is shocking is that these people have never worked with asbestos. The ministry believes the asbestos fibers were not contained, which led to contaminated air levels in the factories’ surrounding areas and causing residents to develop the disease.
Of the 804 people surveyed, 509 showed “lung fiber” and other signs that they may have been exposed to asbestos.
The survey was conducted last year in the prefectures of Yokohama, Gifu, Nara, Osaka, Hyogo, and Saga. A similar survey had also been done in 2006 that consisted of only three of the six mentioned. The 2006 survey had found only 29 cases of pleural plaque.
Judging from the surveys, the ministry saw that mortality rates in mesothelioma sufferers were high in Amagasaki in the Hyogo Prefecture where a Kubota Corp factory was located.
The ministry said that it will continue to gather more data on health problems associated with asbestos exposure. However, an official at the Japan Occupational Safety and Health Resource Center is urging the government to react quickly to the asbestos problem uncovered in the survey.