The Perils of Asbestos Pollution - A Neighborhood at Risk

Kubota Corp., a major machinery maker based in Osaka, Japan, has been at the center of a great deal of controversy regarding asbestos pollutants produced by one of its old factories in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture.

A 57 year old woman living in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, is viewed to be greatly responsible for increased awareness of the harm caused by the Kubota Corp. factory.

Her husband died of malignant mesothelioma in 2001, one year after being diagnosed with the incurable disease. He contracted mesothelioma through work because of daily asbestos exposure; however, repeated requests for workers' compensation were rejected. The experience of losing her husband spawned a desire inside the woman to help those facing similar circumstances.

On a visit to the old Kubota Corp. factory in Amagasaki, she came across a large number of residents suffering from a variety of mesothelioma symptoms. Although these people had never worked with asbestos, she found their symptoms to be easily detectable, being all too familiar with the disease's effects.

The woman realized that residents most likely contracted mesothelioma because of their close proximity to the asbestos-laden factory. While not working with asbestos directly, they were continually immersed in an asbestos-polluted atmosphere from which there was no escape.

Norio Kurumantani, an expert in the field of industrial epidemiology at Nara Medical University, conducted a study through which he determined that the risk of dying of malignant mesothelioma was 10 times higher than the national average for people living within a 500-meter radius of the old factory.

One 62 year old man who spent 18 years living in Amagasaki remembers the pollution being so bad that it was visible in the sky. He reflected upon how his umbrella would be covered with white dust particles after it dried. Three former residents of this man's apartment complex recently died of malignant mesothelioma, including his younger brother.

The Amagasaki-based Kubota Corp. factory was in operation from 1957 to 1975 during which it allegedly used 88,671 tons of crocidolite asbestos (the most toxic asbestos type) for the manufacture of water pipes and other asbestos-laden products. Although the company provided employees with sponges and cotton gauze for the handling of asbestos materials, it refrained from informing them of the grave hazards associated with the fibrous mineral.

Kubota Corp. has effectively accepted responsibility for the victims of asbestos disease caused as a result of working at the factory or living in close proximity to it. Kubota has decided to make gift payments to sufferers and bereaved kin ranging from two to three- million yen each. The gift payments are designed so as to be demonstrative of the sincerity of their apology for harm caused by a lack of attention paid to protecting employees and residents.

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