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Up to 82,000 small buildings estimated to still use asbestos: gov't survey

Out of the roughly 1.3 million relatively small private buildings nationwide with less than 1,000 square meters of total floor space each, an estimated 60,000 to 82,000 still use sprayed asbestos, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism announced for the first time on May 17.

Of those, 23,000 to 30,000 structures appear to have not taken appropriate countermeasures, and the agency is focusing its investigations of the use of sprayed asbestos in buildings used by the largest volume of people, such as restaurants and hotels. When left exposed, sprayed asbestos scatters easily, and when it is inhaled by occupants of the building, it can be detrimental to their health.

The ministry's estimates come from a survey conducted by the asbestos countermeasures working group, part of the ministry's Panel on Infrastructure Development. The group estimated nationwide numbers by investigating small-scale buildings in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, which were built before 1989 when building material manufacturers began voluntarily limiting the use of asbestos.

Additionally, of the 270,000 large-scale buildings nationwide with over 1,000 square meters of total floor space each, roughly 18,000 are also estimated by the ministry to use asbestos spray. However, the number of smaller buildings is much larger, and the exact numbers have been difficult to grasp.

"Until now, there haven't been investigations of small-scale buildings, so we finally can see the big picture," said the leader of the working group and head of the Mesothelioma Pneumoconiosis Asbestos Center Yuji Natori. "Now our task is to increase public awareness about the risks of asbestos and connect these results with countermeasures."

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