Japanese Living Near Asbestos Factories Have Pleural Plaques

A recent Japanese Environment Ministry survey reported that 145 – or 18 percent – of approximately 800 people who live near Japan’s asbestos factories show signs of pleural plaques, a scarring and thickening of the lungs that can lead to the cancer mesothelioma.

According to an article in The Yomiuri Shimbun, ministry officials reported the results of the survey yesterday to a group of health experts. The 145 people, they reported, most likely breathed asbestos fibers in the air around their homes. None of them had direct exposure with the dangerous mineral.

The ministry conducted the survey last year in six different areas of Japan – Yokohama, Hashima in Gifu Prefecture, Nara Prefecture, Osaka Prefecture, Amagasaki in Hyogo Prefecture, and Tosu in Saga Prefecture. All the places surveyed had been the site of factories that handled asbestos, including several that made construction materials.

Of 1,814 people who said they might have inhaled asbestos in the past, the ministry analyzed the data of 804 people who had never worked at the factories or who had not lived with anyone who had, and were presumed to have inhaled asbestos through the air, the article states. Other signs possibly related to asbestos exposure were discovered in 509 people, or 60 percent of the 804 people whose data were carefully analyzed.

“There’s no longer any doubt that there was pollution, in which people around the factories inhaled asbestos,” said Sugio Furuya, secretary general at the Tokyo-based Japan Occupational Safety and Health Resource Center. “The government should quickly establish a health management system to help them receive medical treatment for free.”

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