• Kyodo

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A former sailor’s asbestos-linked lung disease has been certified as occupational, the first case among those not covered by the Pneumoconiosis Law, his supporters said Sunday.

The 75-year-old man, who lives in Kagawa Prefecture, conducted ship repair work that involved using asbestos cement from 1944 to 1984.

He has experienced breathing difficulty since around 2000 and was found to be suffering from lung asbestosis and secondary bronchitis. He filed an application for worker’s compensation in February with the Social Insurance Agency’s Osaka branch, which approved it.

The Pneumoconiosis Law requires employers in the welding, mining and asbestos-processing fields to supervise employee health, but the law does not cover sailors.

“Sailors themselves are not fully aware of their own lung asbestosis issues,” said Akio Shiraishi, leader of the sailor’s support group. “The latest move is significant as it shows sailors are also guaranteed to the compensation” over asbestos problems.

Firms across Japan have recently revealed that hundreds of workers have died from asbestos-linked diseases over the past few decades.

Experts warn that the deaths reported so far are just the tip of the iceberg.

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