Asbestos Cause and Effect 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



As asbestos stakeholders in Quebec were rejoicing over the receipt of government funds for a new underground chrysotile mine last week, Asian asbestos victims were meeting in Japan to remember those whose lives have been lost to asbestos disease. On June 29, representatives from Seoul, Pusan and Shiga, Korea arrived in Osaka to join Japanese colleagues at a series of meetings, discussions, public events and interviews over three days in Amagasaki City and Sennan.


Korean and Japanese campaigners outside Kubota factory in Amagasaki City.

The focal point of the weekend's activities was the commemoration of the 7th anniversary of the “Kubota Shock,” a term commonly used to refer to Japan's awakening to the existence of a national epidemic of asbestos-related diseases and deaths. As explained in the IBAS report Killing the Future – Asbestos Use in Asia:

“Widespread public awareness of Japan's lethal asbestos legacy began on June 29, 2005, the day the Kubota Corporation disclosed that scores of workers at its former Kanzaki asbestos-cement pipe plant had contracted mesothelioma, an aggressive type of cancer. ...

The Kubota announcement seemed to open a floodgate to admissions by other well-known and respected national corporations that created an asbestos storm throughout the Japanese media. On July 1, 2005 the Taiheiyo Cement Corporation announced that six of its workers had also died of mesothelioma. Five days later, the Nichias Corporation, formerly called the Japan Asbestos Corporation admitted that 85 former workers had died of asbestos-related diseases.”1

On Saturday afternoon (June 30) the meeting “7 years after the Kubota Shock,” took place at a community center in Amagasaki City. Three hundred participants heard presentations regarding a variety of subjects including:

  • expressions of solidarity from the Mayor of Amagasaki City and representatives of asbestos victims groups from all over Japan;
  • the situation regarding environmental victims exposed to Kubota asbestos liberated from the Amagasaki plant. The company has only recognized 235 of those making compensation claims; the majority of the injured have mesothelioma;
  • an update on the new Korean asbestos relief scheme for non-occupational asbestos victims;
  • a tribute to Korean mesothelioma victim, the late Mrs. Rachel Lee;
  • the genesis and launch of a 250-page cartoon book produced in a collaborative ethics project by students from Kobe Seika University.


The real Mrs. Kazuko Furukawa of the Japan Association of Mesothelioma and Asbestos-Related Diseases Victims and their Families meet the cartoon Mrs. Furukawa.

Delegates were appalled by the news from Canada that the Quebec government had provided millions of dollars in funding for a new asbestos mine; there was unanimous condemnation of the Government's behaviour especially as the vast majority of the asbestos which will be produced by the new mine is destined for Asian markets.


Delegates and speakers at the “7 years after the Kubota Shock Conference.”

Thousands of miles from Japan, UK asbestos victims have also spoken out about the new mine. Tony Whitston, Chair of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups' Forum UK said:

“Just a week before Action Mesothelioma Day, 6 July, when hundreds of UK mesothelioma sufferers remember thousands who have died from mesothelioma, mostly from the use of Canadian asbestos, this is truly shocking news. Shame on the Quebec and Canadian Governments for putting profit before the lives of the poorest people! Shame on Canada for its hypocrisy: its callous disregard for the lives of others while imposing a de-facto ban on the use of asbestos for Canadian citizens. Shame on Canada!”2

July 2, 2012


1 Kazan-Allen L. Killing the Future – Asbestos Use in Asia. IBAS 2007; p 18-19.

2 Press Release. Asbestos Victims Support Groups' Forum UK. July 2, 2012



       Home   |    Site Info   |    Site Map   |    About   |    Top↑