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Kubota Corp. and Japanese Government: Take full responsibility and offer an apology to asbestos victims

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This catastrophe is not over, asbestos exposure is still claiming lives and I fear the death toll will rise to more than 1000. From Yasutami Yamauchi.

My father Kojiro passed away on January 8th 1996 following an agonising illness. He had showed such great patience and strength through a life full of hardship. His father had died when he was only a boy so he was determined to live a long life.

On New Years Day 1996, a week before his death he wailed: “I would rather die than endure this agony”.
On the verge of his death my younger sister comforted him: “ You don't have to be patient anymore Daddy”. Our whole family experienced the agony with him until the very end.
Cause of death: PMM (Pleura Malignant Mesothelioma)
Age: 80


Course of Events

1940:Japanese Government investigate the risks associated with asbestos.
1954-1995:Kubota Corp. uses asbestos. Between 1957 and 1975 Kubota Corp. investigate the effects of blue asbestos on those living in residences surrounding the factory. 

1996:My Father Kojiro dies from mesothelioma.
June 2005:The numerous incidents of death and serious illness in the surrounding area are linked to the activity of the Kubota factory, this is reported in the media and the incident is dubbed “The Kubota Shock”.
December 2005:The CEO of Kubota Corp. announces to the media his willingness to accept moral responsibility and sets up a relief fund for the victims. 

April 2006: A Relief fund is set up for those who live within a 1500m radius from the factory, the size of this area was decided by Kubota Corp. 248 victims are given sums between 250 and 460 Thousand Yen. (Valued between $2560 and $4710 US Dollars on 23.6.2013.) However, the public were not given access to the specific regulations and conditions associated with the fund. Kubota Corp. did not admit that the asbestos poisoning was their fault. 

May 2007:A law suit is filed in the Kobe District Court against Kubota Corp. and the Japanese Government in order to prove they are fully responsible for the loss of life.


The Court Case

The Kubota Corp. had yet to acknowledge itself as the perpetrator in this case, instead it hoped to end the issue with monetary reparations. 

The Government were fully aware of the risks of asbestos usage yet still they permitted the use of this material and dismissed the threat to workers and local residents.
Death has been caused prematurely, we call for the perpetrators to accept the responsibility for their actions.


February 2012:A Swiss billionaire industrialist and Belgian executive were given 18 year jail sentences by the Italian High Court and ordered to pay millions of Euros in damages for negligent use of asbestos that led to more than two thousand deaths.


August 2012: Kobe district ordered that the defendant Kubota Corp. recognise their responsibility for the deaths caused by asbestos poisoning. 

The sentence stated that the high risk area surrounding the factory should be reduced from 1500m to a 300m radius from the factory.
Only one family received indemnity according to the terms of the case, another bereaved family received nothing because of that resident living outside of 1km from the factory.
The responsibility of the Japanese Government was ignored.
During the case, Kubota Corp. denied responsibility and claimed that the factory did not disperse asbestos. It also claimed that had asbestos dispersion taken place, it would not damage human health. Even though in 2005 the CEO announced to the media his willingness to accept the responsibility and assent to an apology. 

When in 2005 I heard the report about asbestos, my intuition was that my father’s death was caused by exposure to asbestos that had originated at the Kubota Corp. 

Furthermore, when my father was receiving medication, his Doctor asked me if he had been in contact with asbestos. His office was located near the factory, and our family residence was 600m from the factory.
I demanded that the Kubota Corp. and the Japanese Government take responsibility and offer their apologies to the victims. As opposed to their relief fund. which was aimed only at disarming the situation and avoiding responsibility.

The Kubota Asbestos Shock should remain written on the pages of pollution history...

Now there is less coverage of asbestos related stories compared to 2005. Kubota Corp. has issued contracts along with its relief fund, which means those receiving payouts are not able to take legal action against Kubota Corp.

The radio broadcaster Akiko Mizuno has emphasised how important it is to raise ones voice otherwise the facts will vanish.

Almost all of the official victims of the Kubota Corp. had died from mesothelioma, twice as many people who had lung cancer were ignored, the number of fatalities is increasing yearly, it could be that over a thousand people have sacrificed their lives for this negligence.

Their deaths should not have been for nothing. In order to prevent more cases like this in Japan, we must win this case and establish conditions that will prevent further victims of asbestos poisoning.

This year we are taking the case to the Osaka High Court. Our demands have not changed, we ask for a just and equitable sentence based on respect for the health and lives of citizens.



What Is Asbestos? 

Asbestos is a family of closely related silicate based minerals. It occurs naturally in very fine fibrous strands. It was a chosen building material due to its insulating ability and its resistance to fire, electrical and chemical damage. It was also a very cheap resource.

Asbestos is the largest cause of work related death in the UK (Health and Safety Executive).
When damaged, the fine asbestos fibres can easily become airborne, after which they can be inhaled.

Blue Asbestos; also know as crocidolite asbestos is considered to be the most dangerous type of asbestos, it is 500 times poisonous than white asbestos. Once asbestos fibres become airborne they can travel distances up to 3000-4000 metres.

Prolonged inhalation of asbestos is likely to cause increased risk of conditions such as:
• Lung Cancer
• Mesothelioma
• Asbestosis


Who are Kubota Corp.?

Kubota Corporation

Kubota Corp. are industrial manufacturers of large scale agricultural and environmental systems and equipment. Also their products are exported to all over the world. The factory in Amagasaki was engaged in formulating asbestos products such as roof tiles, AC pipe and concrete using raw asbestos. They stopped using asbestos in 1995.



Letter to Kubota Corp. CEO, Yasuo Masumoto.

Your company has set up a relief fund to for some of the victims but still evades responsibility for the asbestos pollution in the Amagasaki area.
I also hear that you are absent when meetings are held amongst the bereaved families. Your denial persists even while in the area, the number of patients suffering from mesothelioma increases yearly. Mesothelioma can be incubated in the body for 20-50 years, so it is likely that we will continue to see more victims. The number may exceed 1000.
The relief fund offered by your company is only a superficial gesture aimed at silencing the issue. I demand that you take full responsibility and offer a true apology to those whose lives were sacrificed by your company.


Letter to the Japanese Minister of Justice, Sadakazu Tanigaki

In 1940 the government issued a report on the dangers of asbestos exposure yet still allow its use in Japan.
The responsibility is heavy. I demand the Japanese Government must also therefore take responsibility and apologise for their lack of action regarding asbestos.

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