In Japan, crocidolite had been used for asbestos cement pipe and spraying, and amosite had been used for building board and spraying. These two types of asbestos had stopped to use in Japan in the late 1970s. An extreme increase in imported asbestos (all 3 commercial types) was observed between 1960 and 1974. In 1960, 77, 000 tons of asbestos were imported, and reached the peak as 352, 316 tons in 1974. This extreme rise of asbestos imports corresponds with the recent rapid increase in mortality of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Between 1995 and 1999, an estimated mean annual death from pleural mesothelioma was about 500. The annual number of compensated occupational respiratory cancers due to asbestos exposure has also been increasing. Up to the end of March 2000, 162 cases with malignant mesothelioma and 197 cases with lung cancer were compensated. As for lung cancer, epidemiological studies are scanty in Japan. Limited environmental data of the working places in asbestos textile factories suggests that heavy asbestos exposure in the past made deaths from respiratory diseases. Less asbestos exposure will enable exposed workers to survive enough to reach cancer age. Even now smoking rate among males in Japan are over 50%. So lung cancer deaths caused by the interaction between smoking and asbestos exposure will be continuing.
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health