In the last ten years, four different residents of a Tokyo neighborhood have been diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, and investigators believe that all were sickened by having lived in close proximity to a plant that used asbestos.
The victims all lived within 500 meters of a factory that operated until 1980, in a neighborhood known as Ota Ward.
According to The Asbestos Center, a citizens group that investigates exposure to asbestos, it is the first time that there have been multiple cases of mesothelioma identified in such close proximity to each other with no workplace exposure in any of the victims’ histories.
Asbestos was finally banned in Japan in 2012, but the ban came too late for the population. In 2015, the number of mesothelioma deaths had grown to 1.6 times the number that had been experienced in the country just ten years earlier, and it is expected that the number will increase.
The mesothelioma victims in Ota Ward had varying degrees of exposure to the asbestos-contaminated environment, with some having lived there just seven years and others as long as 76 years. Three of the victims were males who lived within 200 meters of the factory and who died between the ages of 73 and 82, while the only female lived further away but spent time at a place that was within 500 meters as a child.
“My sister used to play with the asbestos that had been piled up around the factory when she was a child,” the female’s brother said.
The factory manufactured cement and used asbestos to strengthen it. Many workers received compensation for asbestos-related illnesses that they had been diagnosed with, and some residents have been previously diagnosed with pleural plaques.
A woman who lived nearby said, “There is this bomb in the form of inhaled asbestos inside of us, and we don’t know when and how it will explode.” She describes the environment during the factory’s years of operation as “always whitish and the dust was everywhere when the wind blew.”
A professor who is a specialist on risk management believes that Japan will not see the worst of the mesothelioma cases until between 2030 and 2040. The director of the Asbestos Center says, “The damage is getting more and more serious. The asbestos issue is far from over.”
If you or someone you love was exposed to asbestos in your environment and you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease, we can provide you with helpful information and resources to improve your quality of life. Contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.