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Preventive measures against health impairment due to asbestos
Up Date : 2007.11.19
Asbestos is a collective name of silicate minerals in fibrous nature and it has been clarified that inhaling its fibers often induces such serious health impairment as lung asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, etc.The number of cases in which such impairment is awarded as industrial diseases is rapidly increasing and according to the announcement by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of cases awarded as lung cancer and mesothelioma as industrial diseases during fiscal 2006 were 790 and 1,006 cases respectively, totaling to 1,796 which represents an increase to 2.5-fold number from the previous year.
A. Measures to prohibit manufacture and use of asbestos-containing products
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has prohibited manufacture and use, etc., of crocidolite and amosite from April 1995 and in addition, manufacture and use, etc., of ten products including building materials, friction materials and adhesive agents, etc., containing asbestos from October 2004.Furthermore, from September 2006, the manufacture and use of all products containing asbestos exceeding 0.1% by weight have been prohibited for the purpose of securing the safety of citizens, except for those under the use conditions, etc., as specified in the exceptions as listed in the Positive List the manufacture, etc., of which were deemed unavoidable.
Also, with regard to the use conditions, etc., for the exceptions, it was provided that substitution by materials not containing asbestos should be pursued.
B. Ordinance on Prevention of Health Impairment due to Asbestos
Heretofore, the use of asbestos has been restricted by the Ordinance on Prevention of Hazards due to Specified Chemical Substances, but the Ordinance on Prevention of Health Impairment due to Asbestos (Asbestos Ordinance) was issued in February 2005 and has been enforced from July the same year.These Ordinance have been established to prevent the occurrence of health impairment cases due to exposure to asbestos caused by demolition and other work for buildings which are estimated to rapidly increase from now on, in addition to those due to the manufacture and use of asbestos-containing products as have been experienced in the past.
The Asbestos Ordinance were revised and enforced in September 2006, of which the major revised items are as follows:
C. Medical examinations
It is required by Article 66 of the Industrial Health and Safety Act, Article 40 of the Ordinance on the Prevention of Health Impairment due to Asbestos and Article 7 of the Pneumoconiosis Act, etc., that certain medical examinations be provided to persons engaged in manufacture or handling of asbestos.
For persons engaging in manufacturing or handling of asbestos medical examinations concerning asbestos and medical examinations concerning pneumoconiosis must be provided in addition to general medical examinations (medical examination at the time of employment and periodical medical examinations).While general medical examinations are to be provided to all workers, medical examinations concerning asbestos and pneumoconiosis are special medical examinations for persons engaging in manufacturing or handling of asbestos. The works involving exposure to asbestos of which are subject to the said special medical examinations are shown in the website of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. The medical examinations concerning asbestos are provided periodically once every period within 6 months. Starting from September 2006, the records of the result of medical examinations are obliged to be retained for 40 years as mentioned earlier. http://www.mhlw.go.jp./houdou/2006/02/h0209-1.html
D. Personal Health Record
In accordance with Article 67 of the Industrial Health and Safety Act, persons who have been engaged in works which are liable to cause serious health impairment such as cancer and fall under certain prescribed requirements can be provided with the personal health record by applying to each Prefectural Labor Bureau for the issuance thereof at the time of leaving job or after having left job. The requirement for issuance the personal health record with regard to asbestos is that the person has been engaged in work of manufacturing or handling asbestos and irregular shadows caused by asbestos or pleural plaques (pleural thickenings) caused by asbestos have been found in his/her both lungs by X-ray examination. (Note)Those who have the personal health record can getmedical examinations free of charge at designated medical institutions once in every 6 months.
(Note) Concerning the requirement for issuance the personal health record with regard to asbestos, the following requirements are to be added, reflecting the amendment of the Ordinance on Industrial Safety and Health from October 1, 2007: (1) To have an experience of being engaged in work of manufacturing asbestos, etc., or work of applying, removing, etc., hot insulation materials, etc., in which containing asbestos, etc., or work of spraying of asbestos, etc., or demolishing buildings, etc., in which asbestos, etc., had been spray-coated (including the work removing spray-coated asbestos, etc.) for one year or longer, and 10 years or more has elapsed since the day on which he/she was exposed to dust of asbestos, etc., for the first time; (2) To have an experience of being engaged in works of handling asbestos, etc., (excluding the works set forth in the preceding item) for 10 years or longer; and (3) To fall under the requirements prescribed by the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare as similar to those requirements listed in the preceding item (1) and (2).
E. Awarding Criteria of industrial diseases due to asbestos
The awarding criteria of industrial diseases with regard to asbestos were publicized as LSB Notice No. 584 in October 1976 and were revised by LSB Notice No. 0919001 (2003 Notice) in September 2003, in which the following addition and amendments were made: (1) Mesothelioma of capsula cordis and tunica vaginalis testis were added to mesothelioma of pleura and peritoneum; (2) Benign asbestos pleural effusion and diffuse pleural thickening were newly exemplified; (3) Works involving exposure to asbestos were reviewed; (4) The length of work involving exposure to asbestos was shortened from 5 years to one year; and (5) Pleural plaque, asbestos bodies or asbestos fiber as index of exposure to asbestos was reviewed. In addition, the awarding criteria were reviewed in February 2006 and the result was newly publicized as LSB Notice No. 0209001. Major points of revision were: (1) If definite diagnosis has been made for mesothelioma, it shall beawarded; (2) Regarding lung cancer, if pleural plaque, a certain amount or more of asbestos bodies or asbestos fiber is found, it shall be awarded even if the patient has only an experience of exposure to asbestos less than 10 years; and (3) For diffuse pleural thickening, awarding criteria as industrial diseases were newly indicated.