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Former construction workers from northeastern Japan filed a damages lawsuit against the government and 12 construction materials makers Wednesday over health problems caused by asbestos, such as mesothelioma and lung cancer.

In the suit filed with Sendai District Court, the government and the 12 companies are requested to pay ¥270 million in damages. This is the first such litigation in the Tohoku region, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs.

The suit has 10 plaintiffs — three former construction workers in their 60s to 70s and seven bereaved relatives of four workers who have died.

The lawsuit demands ¥38.5 million per former worker and blames the government for failing to implement protective measures, such as obligating them to wear dust respirators, even though it was aware of the dangers of asbestos.

“I get short of breath after walking five minutes,” a former interior construction worker in his 60s, who is suffering from lung cancer, said after the suit was filed.

“I want the error made by the government to be confirmed in court,” said the resident of Miyagi Prefecture, expressing his wish to win redress as early as possible.

The Supreme Court is set to hold an appeal hearing in October in a suit filed by former workers in Kanagawa Prefecture who suffered health problems due to asbestos exposure.

The top court may release a unified view on asbestos-related cases amid three such lawsuits seeking damages.

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