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1,054 people from 879 firms linked to work-related diseases due to asbestos

OSAKA -- The health ministry identified 1,054 people from 879 companies on Dec. 19 as victims of work-related diseases due to asbestos in fiscal 2017 that were qualified for compensation or damage relief.

As many as 12,696 of 16,718 people who have been identified as victims were confirmed to have died.

A total of 213 former and current employees of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.'s Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works, based in the southern Japan city of Nagasaki, were certified for compensation. Of which, 70 had already passed away when they were acknowledged under the compensatory payment system. Among the certified, 126 suffered from lung cancer, 72 were inflicted with mesothelioma, and the rest had other kinds of diseases caused by asbestos. While nine of those who worked at the shipyard were awarded compensation in fiscal 2016, 15 people were approved in fiscal 2017 including four that developed lung cancer and 10 who suffered from mesothelioma.

This marks the first time a single company has produced more than 200 workers entitled for redress due to asbestos-related illnesses.

Nagasaki shipyard is known for its creation of the wartime Japanese battleship the Musashi. Employees continued to build cargo and cruise ships and other types of vessels after World War II by using massive amounts of asbestos.

According to an organization mainly supporting pneumoconiosis victims that worked at the Nagasaki shipyard, boiler engineers made business trips to power plants across Japan and at times worked with asbestos. Representative and former welder Shigetsugu Tsukahara said, "I can't see an end to the damage, as men with lung cancer that worked on electrical wiring were also certified this fiscal year." The 76-year-old hopes to "identify more victims" that have not sought compensation.

A Mitsubishi Heavy Industries official commented, "Unfortunately, some of our current and retired employees have developed health damage allegedly caused by asbestos. We will continue to provide assistance for them through work-related compensation, increase payments to those who are certified, and by other means."

(Japanese original by Hidetoshi Ohshima, Osaka Editorial Division)

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