Japan Says Most Citizens Ignore Asbestos Laws

According to a recent survey of local governments conducted by a Japanese daily newspaper, dozens of buildings across the nation are demolished or renovated with little or no regard for the proper removal or encasement of asbestos materials.

The Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun found that most individuals agree with a building owner they cited in a recent article. The man said proper asbestos removal in Japan is just too expensive to consider. Government officials recently found this gentleman removing asbestos ceilings from a condominium building he owns, using only a putty knife and wearing just a raincoat and no protective gear such as a face mask or respirator.

“It would’ve cost 10 million yen if I’d asked a repair company [to do the removal],” the owner said.

It turned out that more than half of the material he removed contained blue asbestos – one of the most toxic forms of the mineral.

Japan’s Air Pollution Control Law states that any planned repairs or demolition of buildings containing asbestos are to be reported to local governments. It also obliges owners to take measures to prevent asbestos from becoming airborne, such as sealing the building in plastic sheeting, reducing the interior’s atmospheric pressure and spraying fluids, explains the article.

But, officials note, it is difficult to track serious violators of the law and unless these violators are reported by other concerned citizens, little can be done to stop them. Experts point out that the surveillance system currently in place “lacks teeth” as it relies on the voluntary will of companies. As a result, some local governments have begun their own surveillance systems in hopes of cutting down on the number of illegal demolitions and renovations.

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