HOMESpecial TopicsRENGO’s Efforts on the Issue of AsbestosIII. Specific and Concrete Policies for Preventing Exposure, Etc.

RENGO’s Efforts on the Issue of Asbestos

III. Specific and Concrete Policies for Preventing Exposure, Etc.

The following are recommendations on specific and concrete tasks including the prevention of aerial dispersion, prevention of exposure, early detection of asbestos-linked mesothelioma and lung cancer, improvement of the medical system, including doctor staffing, enhancement of the system for monitoring imports of asbestos products, on-site inspection of workplaces, consultation system, disclosure of information, etc:

 1.Measures to Prevent Exposure by Preventing Airborne Emission and Abatement

(1) Strengthening prevention of airborne emission and monitoring system as preventive measures

1)When demolishing or repairing a building, etc,. larger than a specified size, the owner should be obligated to disclose information on asbestos-containing building materials. If this information is not available, the building materials should be considered to contain asbestos and treated as such.
2) Individuals engaged in demolition and repair work should be fully informed about the possible dust effects, etc.
3) Focused supervision and guidance should continue and a mid-term plan for asbestos removal up until 2010 should be formulated.
4) Measures should be strictly implemented for the use and disposal of products designed for general consumers (hairdryers, toasters, bicycle brakes, etc.) (Product names should be disclosed and disposal methods, etc., should be fully publicized.)
5) PR and educational activities should be conducted concerning the possibility of airborne asbestos emissions at the time of an earthquake or other disaster. Countermeasures to asbestos exposure during disasters should be studied.
6) Public and private buildings and other facilities coated with sprayed asbestos should be identified, and follow-up surveys should be carried out.
7) Monitoring systems for work involving the removal of asbestos-containing products should be strengthened.
8) Asbestos waste should be tracked, measures to prevent the airborne emission of asbestos should be thoroughly implemented, and the information should be publicly disclosed.
9) With regard to non-friable asbestos waste, records should be kept for an extended period of time, and information should be disclosed on the quantity and condition of such wastes.
10) With regard to the handling of friable asbestos in school facilities, etc., alternative facilities should be made available during work to remove asbestos, and the impact upon the educational environment of airborne asbestos, noise, etc. should be minimized

(2)Prevention of exposure and control/removal work

1)Workplace Safety and Health Committees should investigate and deliberate on the use of asbestos-containing products in company buildings, shops, equipment and materials. The removal of asbestos-related products should be implemented systematically in accordance with a risk assessment, prioritizing those with higher risk levels including friable asbestos. 
The cost for the removal should be borne by the owner/seizor of the building that requires the removal, or by the client (the party that ordered the construction of the building, etc.). Measures should be taken to provide subsidies to companies that implement containment/removal work in accordance with accurate risk assessments for removal and other costs.
2) As a measure for demolition/repair work in private housing and garages, subsidies should be given for the cost of containment and demolition, etc., in accordance with the size.
3) Measures should be taken to the prevent participation of fraudulent scrappers in asbestos removal and containment work.
4)The number of special trainers should be increased for educating operators (workers) engaged in such work.

(3)Awareness raising and education on “dust”-related danger

Inhaling more than a certain amount of “dust,” not limited to asbestos dust alone, can lead to health damage such as pneumoconiosis. The risk of dust inhalation, therefore, should be publicized, while the risk of exposure to dust including asbestos dust, should be taught as part of the safety education at school.
Since the health hazards of nano-particles and other materials has been pointed out, public awareness on risks related to dust should be strengthened and when new materials are developed and come into use, a more stringent control system should be introduced and measures to prevent health hazards and environmental pollution should be strengthened.

(4) Development and dissemination of safe and inexpensive asbestos abatement technologies

Safe and inexpensive asbestos abatement plants should be developed at the earliest possible date, and support should be provided under certain conditions to companies taking on this challenge. The results of the development should be actively disseminated.

(5) Strengthening on-site inspection in workplaces, etc.

Information on the asbestos-related programs of other countries and the responses of national centers as well as affiliates and company-based unions should be gathered through the ICFTU and OECD-TUAC online network, and publicized on RENGO’s website.

1) A Fundamental Law on Asbestos should be enacted, giving local governments the authority to conduct on-site inspections in buildings, etc. as necessary, following the criteria of Fire Defense Law.
2) The management and responsibility system during demolition and repair work should be strengthened. In addition, the availability of a supervisor designated for asbestos-related work should be confirmed, and the names of violating companies should be actively disclosed.
3) On-site inspections of workplaces by local governments, labor bureaus, etc., should be strengthened.
4)For cases involving methods other than removal, a regular control system should be established, e.g., annual implementation of an inspection of asbestos containment.

(6) Securing disposal sites for asbestos waste

In the years to come, it is projected that a large amount of waste from asbestos construction materials will be generated. As such, final disposal sites should be secured to accommodate both friable and non-friable asbestos waste. In selecting such disposal sites, consideration should be given to minimizing airborne-asbestos risk at the time of natural disasters, and neighborhood residents should be given a full explanation and information concerning the waste disposal status.

(7) Thorough management of asbestos mines

At former asbestos mines, measures to prevent the airborne emission of asbestos fibers due to weathering should be thoroughly implemented and regular inspections should be carried out. In addition to asbestos mines, asbestos-containing stopes should also be subject to similar management.

 2.Upgrading and Dissemination of Skills for Early Disease Detection and Treatment

(1) International cooperation should be established for the development and dissemination of treatment skills

Asbestos exposure and diseases related to it should be studied under international cooperation. Since no country in the world has been successful in developing a way to completely cure lung cancer, mesothelioma, etc., a prevention and treatment research system should be established involving U.N. agencies, as has been done with the HIV/AIDS program, with a view to finding a method of treatment in the mid- to long-term.

(2) Development of a database of mesothelioma and lung cancer patients and projection of incidence

A register should be established of patients suffering from mesothelioma and lung cancer, with the strict protection of personal information ensured. The incidence of mesothelioma and lung cancer should be identified geographically, and based on this the likelihood of asbestos exposure by region should be projected. The findings should also serve to identify the source of exposure and to prevent exposure.

(3) Establishing key hospitals for asbestos-related health check-ups

Hospitals capable of providing specialized diagnosis of asbestos-related mesothelioma and lung cancer should be designated as “asbestos specialist hospitals,” and should focus on such diagnosis.

(4) Training doctors, medical social workers (MSW) and other personnel

As there is an urgent need to train personnel capable of identifying asbestos-linked diseases, the training system for doctors should be improved. Further, in order to make early treatment possible, educational activities should be actively promoted with regards to the reading of radiographs and CT scans, and to the identification of symptoms. The training of “medical social workers” (MSW), who work in hospitals and clinics providing counseling to patients on various matters including livelihood and money, should be institutionalized.

(5) Strengthening the system for early detection

The early detection of disease requires examination with sensitive testing equipment and accurate interpretation of radiographs based on the results of the examination. This in turn requires the dissemination and promotion of such testing equipment and interpretation skills as well as data processing to facilitate diagnosis. Taking into account the risk stemming from irradiation during checkups, more accurate and safer testing equipment and skills should be developed.

 3.Establishing a System to Monitor Exports and Imports

(1) Measures to deal with the warehoused products of companies manufacturing asbestos

In principle, the asbestos-related warehoused products of manufacturers should be abated and disposed of. Until then, the transfer and sales of such products should be closely monitored.

(2) Strict monitoring of the overseas dumping of asbestos waste

A monitoring system should be established to ensure that asbestos waste is not disposed of or dumped overseas. In particular, the overseas dumping of obsolete vessels, which is now emerging as a problem, as well as the disposal of asbestos-containing products should be kept under close surveillance.

(3) Strengthening of the monitoring system of imports and exports of asbestos-containing products

It is necessary to strengthen the monitoring system of the import of (0.1% or greater) asbestos-containing products or finished products that partially use asbestos-containing parts.

 4.Regular Implementation of Environmental Assessments and On-site Inspections of Workplaces

(1) Improvement of the accuracy of environmental assessments and data sharing

While skills for measuring asbestos density should be strengthened, those engaged in measurement work should be given training to strengthen the system to achieve accurate measurement. At the same time, the results of the measurements in various parts of the country should be disclosed and shared among relevant agencies and institutions so that they can serve as a comprehensive source of information for making a decisions on compensation filings and early detection.

(2) Improving the accuracy of tests of asbestos content

The asbestos content of products manufactured in the past should be disclosed. Measuring asbestos content requires dispersion staining analysis using phase contrast microscopy, or qualitative analysis using X-ray diffraction analysis. Measures should be implemented to improve testing accuracy as well as the skills of the organizations and personnel engaged in testing.

(3) Financial support for environmental assessments in municipalities

As a measure to free local residents from anxiety and to prevent illegal dumping, the central and prefectural governments as well as municipalities should carry out environmental assessments and measurements of building materials and discarded lumber to check the asbestos content. Financial assistance should be provided to municipalities that have a weak financial base to encourage them to carry out environmental assessments, which hopefully will lead to the prevention of exposure.

(4) Regular on-site inspections of workplaces by regional labor bureaus and local governments

Asbestos materials can still be found in many buildings. As such, regional labor bureaus and prefectural governments need to regularly conduct official inspections of the status of asbestos use and to check the level of airborne asbestos. If a situation is found to be dangerous, containment and removal should be demanded on the spot to prevent workers from being exposed.

(5) On-site inspection and guidance by work accident prevention instructors

Active use should be made of the 1,500 work accident prevention instructors, from both management and labor, who are available across the country. After receiving training on dealing with asbestos, they should carry out investigations of asbestos use in work sites, giving guidance for improvement.

(6) Measures to prevent intentional contamination with asbestos

Asbestos can become mixed into products, as the substance does exist in the natural environment. However, intentional and illegal contamination with asbestos should be prevented and a product monitoring system should be established to this end.

(7) Review of asbestos density in the work environment and in the atmosphere in general

Since asbestos is a carcinogenic substance and is believed to have no threshold dose, the lower the density in the work and general environment, the better. The density criterion determined by the government is unlikely to be the level necessary to prevent future disease. Therefore, the criterion should be revised as necessary.

 5.Introducing Consultation Services and Disclosure of Information

(1) Consolidate consultation services to the public

Considering that large amounts of asbestos have been used in transportation and public facilities, consultation services, which are easily accessible by the public, should be established to help remove anxieties and solve problems (containment and removal of asbestos).

(2) Improve the counseling system for workers, retirees and families

1) Since we are likely to see an increase in requests for counseling not only from workers but from their families and residents in the neighborhoods of asbestos-related plants, counseling systems should be established by people equipped with accurate knowledge. To this end, a system should be introduced to capitalize on work accident prevention instructors and industrial physicians.
2) Training should be provided to industrial health and safety staff and others on the causal link between asbestos exposure and diseases, protection methods, etc.

(3) Mental care for victims and families Consultation systems that provide psychological counseling for lung cancer and mesothelioma patients and their families should be enhanced. Mental care should also be provided to those who are worried about exposure in the past.

(4) Disclosure of information and CSR by administrative agencies and corporations

1) Asbestos-related information held by administrative agencies and corporations should be actively disclosed to remove anxieties among neighborhood residents and users. As part of CSR, information about hazardous and toxic substances, not limited to asbestos, should be disclosed.
2) Subsidies should be provided to support investigations of asbestos use in buildings that are used by large numbers of unspecified people. Priority should be given to subsidizing small enterprise and individual owners of buildings, who are likely to be slow in taking necessary actions.

(5) Obligations concerning sales and rentals of used housing

An item concerning asbestos use should be added to the “important matters of explanation” which is mandatory at the time of housing transactions. In rental contracts for residential housing and offices, as well, an equivalent explanation should be made mandatory.