From the "Controlled-Use" of ASBESTOS to the Ban on Main ASBESTOS Products
The process in JAPAN: June 2002 - Oct. 2004
-Presentation on Plenary Session-(Nov.21, 2004)
Ouchi Kazuko, "Let's Think About Asbestos!", Japan
Thank you very much for giving me this precious opportunity!
My name is Kazuko Ouchi. I opened an internet website "Let's Think about ASBESTOS" in 1997.Since then, I've been sending information regarding asbestos issue in Japan.
When I opened the web site, Japan imported approximately 200,000 tons of asbestos per year, but most people did not know the fact.
I was interested in why such a misconception could be embedded in the society. It was a reason of my opening this web site. The creature cleaning the screen is a guardian of the website. His name is Hepafil. Today, from such a viewpoint, I will present the process of the ban on asbestos in Japan, with him.
In the last October, the Enforcement Order of Industrial Safety and Health Law was amended. By the amendment, manufacture, import, use and transfer of the next ten products containing asbestos above 1% in gravity were prohibited.
Those ten prohibited products are Asbestos cement pipes, Extruded cement panels, Decorated cement shingles for dwelling roofs, Fiber reinforced cement boards, Fiber reinforced cement sidings....
Clutch facings, Clutch linings, Brake pads, Brake linings and Adhesives.
Why did Japan take the policy of partial ban, while some other countries such as EU had already taken a firm step to total ban? Besides, why were these only ten kinds of products targeted on the prohibition, although it is said that there were some 3,000 kinds of asbestos-containing products in the golden era?
This is a table explaining the report of "the Technical Committee on Substitution for Asbestos". Officially, it was the committee that decided the prohibited products.
In this table, construction materials were classified into these five categories, which were concluded to be replaceable.
Other materials except 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 asbestos thread and others.
Two of six, friction materials for clutch and brake and adhesives for insulator were concluded to be replaceable, and the others were concluded difficult to be replaced and they should be used under the theory of 'controlled-use' with certain present regulations.
How could they classify all asbestos-containing products into those eleven categories?
In July 2002, the former Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, Dr. Chikara Sakaguchi addressed a new policy heading for ban on asbestos, showing the Governmental Answer for the Question in Writing under the Diet Law.
The ministry set about researching on asbestos-containing products based on the Governmental Answer, then formed "the Technical Committee on Substitution for Asbestos" consisted of eight technical experts, in Dec.2002.
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.
In this Report, seven categories of products out of eleven were concluded to be banned. As friction material was re-defined into four kinds, such as brake and clutch, later, the total prohibited products became ten kinds.
The WTO notification was made based on the report of this committee in May 2003. At the same time, the public comments procedure was performed on a brief overview.
Recently, it was found that another committee was established and there were no documents to explain the establishment and the management of the Substitution Committee. Now, another problem, what was the Substitution Committee, was revealed.
On the other hand, prior to the WTO notification, the Hearing from Foreign Parties was proceeded in Tokyo, in Apr. 2003. The Asbestos Institute and the Canadian government demonstrated their stances.
After the last decision was made by the Labor Policy Council in Sep. 2003*9, the Amended Order was amended in Oct. 2003 and enforced in Oct. 2004.
Then, what are products not prohibited by this banning?
First of all, asbestos fiber is not prohibited. So, to import chrysotile is completely legal.
Only ten kinds of asbestos-containing products were prohibited, so to import or produce any other asbestos-containing products are admitted.
Moreover, ten prohibited-products containing asbestos at or below 1% in gravity were not banned.
Also the revised Order ruled that ten prohibited-products which had produced or imported before Oct.1st 2004 were out of the scope of the amended order. It means even those ten prohibited-products, if they were produced or imported within one year before the enforcement, they could be legally sold for ever.
How should we characterize the ban on asbestos in Japan? I wish, finally, to summarize about the point. It is a Government leading fade out rather than a ban.
It is also a trend of reduction of asbestos content.
The Government promotes replacement and reduction of asbestos content up to 1% through the traditional methods such as governmental notifications or administrative suggestions, waiting for leading companies to complete replacement.
The viewpoint of economy was emphasized rather than hygiene.
The ban was not decided on the point what damages the asbestos use would cause to us, but on the point what influences the asbestos ban would have on the industries.
A new version of controlled-use was adopted. Now, a new rule to prevent asbestos exposure was being drafted.
Behind those situations, there is a poorness of people's participation.
Only a few lines of overview was provided to ask the public comment.
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.
Also, 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. I am astonished at the fact that the procedure with no objectivity and no transparency was taken so plainly.
Although asbestos issue concerns the whole nationsf interests, the decision on asbestos ban was decided in a small and closed world along with only perfunctory participation of the people.
I think it is necessary for us to require opening this closed society, to call for correctness and transparency for the whole procedures. It should be useful for realizing the total ban on asbestos in Japan.
Let's watch the process together for the future!
Thank you very much, and see you again!
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