Serious Health Hazard of Asbestos in Sennan Area

The Asbestos Hazard in Japan

Asbestos has been used since the end of 19th century in Japan. As Japan's industrial manufacturing ran behind western countries, the control of asbestos was delayed and that caused the concerned asbestos victims to increase in Japan.
In June 29, 2005, Kubota, which is one of the biggest manufacturing companies in Japan, announced the occurrence of many occupational victims of asbestos, as well as the victims of asbestos dust from environmental exposure around the Kanzaki plant. That was what we call "Kubota Shock".

Another Suffering District in Japan


"Kubota Shock" triggered the discovery of other victims of asbestos in Japan. One of these was people in the Sennan area of Osaka.
There had been many small asbestos textile factories in the Sennan area since 1907 to 2005. They manufactured asbestos yarn, cloth, and other insulation materials that were used for ships, cars, and construction, etc.
There were only several big factories, and most of those factories were household industries typically operated by families and a few employees. So they were significantly different from Kubota in scale, equipment, and accordingly in compensation.

photo:Crushing raw fiber
Crushing raw fiber
photo:Mixing asbestos fiber(without respirator)
Mixing asbestos fiber(without respirator)

The Development of Our Movement

In September 2005, we began our movement to figure out the reality of the health hazards in the Sennan area. In November 2005, lawyers and doctors cooperated to conduct a medical and legal checkup session, and found lung abnormalities among more than 60% people who took X-ray examinations.
Our checkup sessions have been held regularly until now, examining more than 330 people. These tests revealed many asbestos cases, which were traceable to actual conditions in those factories, and showed clearly that asbestosis cases were caused by environmental exposure.

The Government had known the hazard, and could control the asbestos, but did nothing.

photo:Asbestos fiber on a roof exhausted to the environment
Asbestos fiber on a roof exhausted to the environment

Amazingly, the Japanese government carried out a detailed investigation on asbestos hazards in the Sennan area between 1938~1940. It was an advanced and extensive investigation comparable with the investigation conducted by Merewether in England in 1930. Despite this, the Japanese Government did nothing to control the asbestos dust in those industries until 1970s. In addition, even after the enactment, the laws and regulations were woefully insufficient. It's obvious that this government's negligence caused the spread of the damage.
In February 2006, the government enacted a new asbestos compensation law in response to the Kubota Shock. But it was also defective in that it denied compensation to asbestosis patients whose illness was caused by environmental exposure. It also offered insufficient compensation in comparison with workman's compensation.

Going to Court

On May 26, 2006, 8 asbestos victims brought the Japanese Government into court suing for compensatory damages for mental suffering. Furthermore, the secondary lawsuit was filed on September 24, 2009. Now, the plaintiffs have increased to about 60 (counting by the number of victims). We ‘ve been arguing the responsibility of the government to warn people about the toxicity of asbestos, to control asbestos, and ultimately to protect workers and residents.

The Divided Judgments

On May 19, 2010, Osaka district court gave an epoch-making judgment on the first case that admitted the liability of the Government. But on August 25, 2011, Osaka High court overruled the original decision, denied the liability of the government. The judgment was horrible one alleging that industrial development should have been prioritized to life and health of the people.
7 months later, overcoming the devastating judgment of High court on the first case, the secondary lawsuit won the case on March 28, 2012 in Osaka district court. Now the decision of High court of the secondary lawsuit is scheduled for December 25, 2013.

Fighting to the end

Our litigation is taking on the Government face-to-face making it takes responsibility for the asbestos problem, and in the event, making clear the defectiveness of the new Asbestos compensation law. We strongly expect a fair judgment of Osaka High court coming soon that also should be a good opportunity to bring about a political solution of asbestos compensation issue in Sennan.

That's why we need support and solidarity.
We welcome your interest in our movement.

Osaka Lawyers Advocacy for the Victims of Asbestos disease

■About us :
We are a group of lawyers mainly practicing in Osaka Prefecture, are working for the victims of asbestos related disease. Our activities go back to the 1980s, and there are now about 60 of us acting on lawsuits against the government and companies.