• Kyodo

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A lawsuit was filed Friday on behalf of eight asbestos victims in southern Osaka Prefecture’s Sennan district, home to numerous fiber-spinning plants, accusing the state of failing to introduce protective measures for workers and nearby residents.

The 240 million yen lawsuit filed at the Osaka District Court is the first in a series of asbestos-related actions to be brought against the state.

The lawsuit aims to clarify the state’s readiness to prevent asbestos-related damages. The issue has drawn wide attention since last June, when the extent of health damage among people living near Kubota Corp.’s asbestos-contaminated, closed factory in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, came to light.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs said they plan to clarify the state’s responsibility and demand comprehensive relief measures, including the revision of the new relief law that excludes some victims.

Named as plaintiffs in the suit are Yoko Okada, 49, a nurse in Hannan, Hyogo Prefecture, and deceased workers at factories in Hannan and Sennan, and nearby residents. Relatives are pursuing the action as the next of kin of people who died from asbestos-related causes.

The plaintiffs claim they, or their kin, were exposed to a large amount of asbestos between 1943 and 1992 when they worked at or lived near the factories in the region that processed asbestos-containing products.

All eight named plaintiffs were diagnosed with lung asbestosis, which caused lung cancer in the deceased plaintiffs — two former workers and a nearby resident.

The litigants said the state was aware of asbestos-related damage and the need for legislative measures to control the damage through its research and health surveys conducted in Sennan and other areas before the end of World War II.

The litigants accuse the state of neglecting its duty under the former Labor Standard Law to prevent the spread of asbestos at the factories, prevent the exposure of asbestos, and to warn employees’ families and nearby residents of the danger of asbestos, thus endangering their lives and health.

The new relief law for asbestos victims that went into force in March only covers the families of former workers whose industrial accident compensation claims have exceeded the statute of limitations, or five years from the time of death, and family members and nearby residents diagnosed with mesothelioma or lung cancer.

Okada and the other plaintiffs are not covered by the new law because they were diagnosed with lung asbestosis, not mesothelioma or lung cancer. Three former workers, including two deceased workers, have been recognized as having suffered from work-related illness.

The lawyers say they have been receiving a number of similar inquiries and plan to file additional damages suits.

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