Japan: New Asbestos Initiative  

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



On April 20, 2016, the inaugural meeting of the Asbestos Sub-Committee of Japan’s Environment Ministry’s Central Environment Council took place in Tokyo. On the agenda was a review of government relief schemes which, since 2006, have paid compensation to asbestos victims not covered by workers compensation schemes.


Mrs. Kazuko Furukawa, a leading campaigner for the rights of asbestos victims, is a member of this new government body along with one representative each from industry, local government and the medical community. Her presentation was observed by forty asbestos victims and relatives who attended the session. Other speakers who addressed the meeting included:

  • a retired councillor from Amagasaki City who was diagnosed in 2015 with

mesothelioma; as his exposure to asbestos was environmental, he has only received benefits under the government relief scheme. He told the meeting that the meagre amount paid out is unjust and inadequate;

  • the young mother of a two-year old boy whose 38-year old husband recently died of mesothelioma; the family received no compensation for his death;
  • Mrs Kosuge, vice president of the asbestos victims’ national network, whose husband died of mesothelioma. He was exposed to asbestos on his father’s work clothes. The lawsuit the family brought against Eternit, the father’s employer, did not succeed. After the relief scheme was enacted, the family received some financial benefits but it is hard, Mrs. Kosuge said, bringing up four children on these benefits.


All of those who spoke on behalf of the victims’ community called for equal and fair compensation for all those affected and not just those who had been exposed to asbestos at work. After the session a press conference took place during which calls were made for political action to remedy the injustices which persisted over asbestos compensation.

April 23, 2016



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