The Osaka District Court on May 19 ordered the government to pay ¥435 million in compensation to 23 people who worked in asbestos-spinning factories in the Sennan area of Osaka Prefecture from 1939 to 2005. It did not offer compensation to three other plaintiffs, including a resident who lived near the factories.

The ruling is the first to hold the government responsible for failing to prevent exposure to asbestos. The government should refrain from appealing the ruling and instead improve measures to help people who are suffering from asbestos- related illnesses. The ruling is likely to affect similar lawsuits in Tokyo, Yokohama and Kobe.

Asbestos became a major health issue in 2005 when machinery maker Kubota Corp. disclosed that 79 people, including workers at its asbestos-related factory, had died of diseases believed to have been caused by exposure to asbestos. In 2006, a relief law went into force and the production, import and use of asbestos were banned.