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From the "Controlled-Use" of ASBESTOS to the Ban on Main ASBESTOS Products
The process in JAPAN: June 2002 - Oct. 2004

Ouchi Kazuko, Citizens Group "Let's Think About Asbestos!", Japan

(updated on 17 April 2005)

Introduction

In the middle of 1990s, Japan imported approximately 200,000 tons of asbestos per year, but most people did not know the fact. The misconception planted in the society has concealed the magnitude of this issue, while numerous hidden victims have been produced. I was interested in why such a misconception could be embedded in the society. I established the internet website "Let's Think about ASBESTOS" in 1997*1. Since then, I've been sending information regarding asbestos issue in Japan.

In June 2002, the Japanese government declared to change the policy and head for banning on asbestos. The new policy was put into practice on 1st Oct. 2004, but, actually, ban was limited to only ten kinds of asbestos products.

Some other countries such as EU had already taken a firm step to total ban. Also, it is said that there were some 3,000 kinds of asbestos-containing products in the golden era. It is not clear why Japan had taken the policy of partial ban and why these ten kinds of products were targeted on prohibition.

Recently, not only Government but also mass media are referring to this banning as if it was total ban or basic ban on asbestos. Under these situations, as it is concerned another misconception might be produced, it is necessary to make sure of what were banned and what were not banned and to clarify the process of the ban on asbestos in Japan.


The ten kinds of asbestos products

In Oct. 2003, the Enforcement Order of the Industrial Safety and Health Law (ISHL) was amended. The amended ISHL prohibited manufacture, import, use and transfer of the following ten kinds of products containing asbestos above 1% by weight*2.

(1) Asbestos cement pipes

(6) Clutch facings

(2) Extruded cement panels

(7) Clutch linings

(3) Decorated cement shingles for dwelling roofs

(8) Brake pads

(4) Fiber reinforced cement boards

(9) Brake linings

(5) Fiber reinforced cement sidings

(10) Adhesives


Products which were not prohibited

The amended Enforcement Order did not prohibit the following materials;

(1) Asbestos fiber is not targeted on the amended Order. (To import chrysotile fiber is completely legal.)

(2) To import or product any other asbestos-containing products except these ten prohibited products are admitted.

(3) To import or produce these ten prohibited products containing asbestos at or below 1% by weight are not prohibited.

(4) The amended Enforcement Order ruled that these ten prohibited-products produced or imported before 1st Oct. 2004 were not applied to theOrder. It means even those ten prohibited-products, if they were produced or imported within one year after the amendment can be legally sold from now on*3.


How were these ten kinds of prohibited products decided?

The following table explains the report of "the Technical Committee on Substitution for Asbestos". Officially, the committee decided the prohibited products.

According this table, construction materials were classified into five categories (Asbestos cement pipes, Extruded cement panels, Decorated cement shingles for dwelling roofs, Fiber reinforced cement boards and Fiber reinforced cement sidings), which were concluded to be able to be replaced and should be banned.

Other materials except these construction materials were classified into six categories, such as friction materials for clutch and brake, adhesives for insulator, sealing materials, jointing sheets, thermal/electrical insulating sheets and asbestos cloth and thread and others. Two of these six categories, friction materials for clutch and brake and adhesives for insulator were concluded to be able to be replaced, and the others were concluded to be difficult to be replaced and they should be used under the theory of 'controlled-use' with certain present regulations.

As a result, seven kinds of asbestos products (as friction materials were subdivided into four kinds, Clutch facings, Clutch linings, Brake pads and Brake linings, later, ten kinds of products) were decided to be prohibited.


Categories of Asbestos Products and the Possibilities of Replacement

Product Category

Substitution

Result

Construction

 materials

Asbestos cement pipes

able to be replaced

prohibit

Extruded cement panels

Decorated cement shingles for dwelling roofs

Fiber reinforced cement boards

Fiber reinforced cement sidings

The others

Friction materials for brake and clutch

Adhesives for insulator

Sealing materials

difficult to be replaced

controlled use

Jointing sheets

Thermal/Electrical insulating sheets

Asbestos cloth and asbestos thread and others

(Quoted from the web site of MHLW and translated into English*)

The process to the prohibition

The process during this period was as below.

On 28 June 2002, the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, Dr. Chikara Sakaguchi, declared the new policy that all Asbestos-containing products should be prohibited except products considered to be unavoidable for industrial and public safety. It was the place of press conference*5 to account for the Governmental Answer*6 to the Question in Writing requested by the Diet member, Mr. Atsuo Nakamura, under the Diet Law*7.

The ministry set about researching on asbestos-containing products based on the Governmental Answer and formed "the Technical Committee on Substitution for Asbestos" consisted of eight technical experts, in Dec.2002. (There is no description about the Substitution Committee in the constructing document, but another committee consisted of other members including ones from relating asbestos industries.)

The Substitution Committee decided the basic frame of ban, that is, the possibilities of replacement should be decided at category level and in the cases of which alternatives don't exist or are considerably inferior in quality and may cause socially unacceptable problems, the products should be decided as difficult to be replaced. The Report of this Committee was released in Apr. 2003*8.

The Committee decided seven categories of products out of eleven should be banned. As friction material was re-defined into four kinds, such as brake and clutch, later, the total prohibited products became ten kinds.

Based on the report of this committee, the notification was sent to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in May 2003*9. At the same time, the national comments were invited, but only a few lines of overview were given to the nation for that*10.

On the other hand, prior to the WTO notification, the Hearing from Foreign Parties was carried out in Tokyo, in Apr. 2003. The Asbestos Institute and the Canadian government demonstrated their stances*11.

After the last decision had been made by the Labor Policy Council, in Sep. 2003*12, the Enforcement Order of the ISHL was amended in Oct. 2003. It was enforced in Oct. 2004. As the amended Enforcement Order has a stipulation that products imported or produced before Oct. 2004 are not applicable to it, it might promote production or import before the deadline.

- The flow to the ban on ten kinds of asbestos products -

10/Apr/2002
A study of prediction about the future mortality of male pleural malignant mesothelioma in Japan (by Dr. Murayama and others) was reported*13.

17/May/2002
The Diet member, Mr. Atsuo Nakamura, submitted the Question in Writing; "Regarding the measures on prohibition of asbestos", under the Diet Law in Japan.

28/June/2002
The Governmental Answer for the Question in Writing was released. At the press conference to explain the Answer, the minister of MHLW, Dr. Chikara Sakaguchi addressed Japanfs new policy on asbestos and the prospect that chrysotile would be added to the prohibited asbestos.

**/Aug/2002
The MHLW set about researching on asbestos-containing products based on the Governmental Answer.

07/Oct/2002
The first judgment on asbestos pneumoconiosis case in Yokosuka base of the U.S. Army was given. The court approved the victims' requirement almost perfectly.

29/Oct/2002
"The Committee for the Standard of Authorized Occupational Diseases caused by Asbestos Exposure" was established.

16/Dec/2002
"The Technical Committee on Substitution for Asbestos" was formed. The committee was held seven times to hear to asbestos-related companies*14.

06/Jun/2003
The children and their guardians of Sasigaya nursery school run by Bunkyo ward filed a suit in the court.

24/Mar/2003
The Question in Writing was submitted by a Diet member, Ms. Miyo Inoue*15.

04/Apr/2003
The Report of "the Technical Committee on Substitution for Asbestos" was released.

08/Apr/2003, 11/Apr/2003
The procedure of the hearing from foreign countries was held in Tokyo. Canadian Government and the Asbestos Institute demonstrated their stances.

23/May/2003
The governmental Answer to the Question in Writing by the Diet member, Ms. Inoue, was released*16.

02/May/2003
The national public comments were invited, provided only a few lines of overview about amendment, explaining the decision by the Substitutes Committee.

12/May/2003
The notification regarding the amendment of the Order was sent to the WTO, explaining the contents of the report of the Substitute Committee. (The deadline was 29 July 2003.)

26/Aug/2003
The report of the Committee of the Standard of the Authorized Occupational Diseases caused by the Asbestos Exposure was released. (The scope of the authorized occupational diseases was expanded*17.)

19/Sep/2003
The Labor Policy Council admitted the overview of the amendment of the Enforcement Order of the ISHL.

16/Oct/2003
The Enforcement Order of the ISHL was amended. (The ban on the ten kinds of asbestos products was decided.)

01/Oct/2004
The Enforcement Order of the ISHL was enforced. (The ban on the ten kinds of asbestos products was enforced.)



The Role played by "The Technical Committee on Substitution for Asbestos"

At the time of the notification to the WTO, in May 2003, the report of "The Technical Committee on Substitution for Asbestos" was used to explain the necessity of prohibition on these ten kinds of asbestos products in Japan. Also, when the Government invited the national public comment, in May 2003, the result of this committee was used to explain the decision of the MHLW.

To examine the reason why these ten kinds of products were targeted on prohibition, the role played by the Committee was very important, but there are many ambiguous factors about the Committee.

For example, the MHLW entrusted the management of the Committee to the Japan Industrial Safety and Health Association (JISHA), but the officer of the MHLW says he can't find any description about the Committee in the contracting documents. It means the MHLW can't do their accountability how the Substitution Committee was established and managed, or, how much money was spent for the management of the committee.

Also, the contracting document indicated there was another committee consisted of other members including members from asbestos-related industry*18.

Although the Substitution Committee actually existed and decided the prohibited products, it might have played a role of a dummy committee. If it is true, another problem, what was the Substitution Committee, should be asked.

The MHL should account for the entire procedure, including how they has contract with the JISHA, to the nation.


Consideration

The ban on asbestos in Japan can be characterized as follows;

(1)The prohibition on asbestos was the Government leading fade-out rather than ban. It was also a trend of reduction of contents of asbestos. Government promotes replacement and reduction of asbestos contents below 1% by traditional methods such as governmental notifications or administrative suggestions, waiting for leading companies to complete replacement. Unready industries were not targeted on the ban.

(2) A viewpoint of economy was emphasized rather than hygiene. The Substitution Committee was a place to here from asbestos-related industries. The ban was not decided on the point what damages the asbestos use would cause to the nations, but decided on the point what influences the asbestos ban would have on the industries.

(3) All asbestos-containing products except these ten kinds were concluded unable to be replaced and they should be used under the theory of 'controlled-use' with certain present regulations. A new version of controlled-use was adopted. Now, a new rule to prevent asbestos exposure was being drafted.

(4)Behind those situations, there is a poorness of people's participation. Only a few lines of overview were provided to ask the public comment in Apr. 2003. The report of the substitution committee was attached as a reference, but it was a completely closed committee and even record of the committee had not been made public until it was forced to open by the requirement under the right to know.

(5)There was lack of objectivity. One of secretariats of the Substitution Committee was same as the chairman of the Labor Policy Council. The person who is proposing is the same person as a decision maker. Scarce participation of the third parties results to promote the strength of the connection between the government and the asbestos industry.

The last remark

Although the asbestos issue concerns the whole nations, the decision on asbestos ban was decided in a small and closed world along with only perfunctory democratic procedure. It is necessary for us to require for opening the closed society and adjust the lack of transparency during the whole procedures. It would be important to realize a total ban on asbestos in Japan.

 (Dec. 30, 2004)


References

    1) "Let's Think about ASBESTOS" http://park3.wakwak.com/~hepafil/
    2) The Order to amend the Enforcement Order of the ISHL.
    @http://park3.wakwak.com/~hepafil/pdf/rouanhou.pdf
    3) The Order to amend the Enforcement Order of the ISHL - Appendix- article 2
    4) The outline of the amended the Enforcement Order of the ISHL.
    @http://www.mhlw.go.jp/shingi/2003/09/s0919-7b.html
    5) The press release by the minister of MHLW regarding the Governmental Answer to the Question after the cabinet meeting, on 28 June 2002.
    @http://park3.wakwak.com/~hepafil/file/kishasiryou.html
    6) The Governmental Answer to the Question (Cabinet/ the house of councilor/ Question 154-No.24-28. June. 2002.)
     http://park3.wakwak.com/~hepafil/pdf/toubensho.pdf
    7) The Question in Writing under the Diet Law; "Regarding the Measures of Prohibition for AsbestosiThe Question No.24 -17 May. 2002, by the Diet member: Mr. Atsuo Nakamura)".
     http://park3.wakwak.com/~hepafil/file/shuisho0.html
    8) The report of "The Technical Committee on Substitution for Asbestos"
    9) World Trade Organization NOTIFICATION (G/TBT/N/JPN/86-12 May 2003)
      World Trade Organization NOTIFICATION Corrigendum (G/TBT/N/JPN/86/Corr.1-19 May 2003)
    10) Regarding the procedure of the national comments on the amendment of the ISHL.
    11)"Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare Japanese Public Hearings on a New Regulation Regarding the Use of Chrysotile Asbestos"
     http://park3.wakwak.com/~hepafil/file1/canada.html
    12) The record of the deliberation of 'the The Labor Policy Council'
     http://park3.wakwak.com/~hepafil/file1/rouanhou/gijiroku.html
    13) A study of prediction about the future mortality of male pleural malignant mesothelioma in Japan (by Dr. Murayama and others)
     The lecture by Dr. Murayama about the study:
     http://park3.wakwak.com/~banjan/main/murayama/html/murayama.htm
    14) The proceedings of "The Technical Committee on Substitution for Asbestos"
     http://park3.wakwak.com/~hepafil/file1/process-mokuji.html
    15) http://park3.wakwak.com/~hepafil/file/situmon-inoue.html
    16) http://park3.wakwak.com/~hepafil/pdf/inoue-toubensho.pdf
    17) The report of "The Committee of the Standard of the Authorized Occupational Diseases caused by the Asbestos Exposure"
     http://www.mhlw.go.jp/shingi/2003/08/s0826-4.html
    18) "Regarding the entrustment for the study about the hazard of asbestos and other fibroid materials"



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