Government links printing staff’s cancer to work

Kyodo, JIJI

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will certify that bile duct cancer contracted by 16 employees at a printing firm in the city of Osaka was a result of their working conditions, ministry sources said Wednesday.

The recognition will be the first time the government acknowledges that workers suffering from bile duct cancer are eligible for compensation.

The ministry apparently made the decision due to the fact that the cancer occurred in a number of young employees despite the disease being found mainly in the elderly, the sources said.

Of the 16 employees with Sanyo-CYP Co., one was a twenty-something, seven were in their 30s and eight in their 40s. Of that total, seven have died.

The ministry will acknowledge that the employees’ cancers are work-related after its expert panel compiles a basic policy on the matter in mid-March.

Researchers have already pointed to organic solvents used as ink-cleaning agents as a cause of the cancer. An epidemiological study on the link between work and bile duct cancer has been under way since August.

After tests conducted mainly by the ministry on the working environment of the Osaka firm, it was found that the employees were exposed to possibly between three to 20 times the maximum permitted level set by a U.S. industrial hygiene council.

The statute of limitations for applying for worker compensation is five years from the death of the applicant, but the ministry will calculate it from when the disease was linked to the jobs, the sources said.

There are 46 other applications for workers’ compensation, chiefly from printing firms in Miyagi and Fukuoka prefectures.