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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Asbestos: Another health risk in post-disaster Japan

Much has been said about radioactive substances since the nuclear power plant in Japan's Fukushima prefecture exploded over a month ago.
But now, attention is being paid to another potential environmental problem that may pose health risk—asbestos.
Analysts have found that there are 2 fibers of the cancer-causing substance per liter of air in Sendai city, an area that was devastated by the quake-triggered tsunami, said.
That value is lower than the Japanese safety standard of 10 fibers per liter but they still consider it alarming.
The tsunami waves that destroyed several houses and buildings disturbed the asbestos that is part of the materials used in the construction of such edifice. It is estimated that there are more than six million tons of rubble in each town.
The health ministry has already made efforts to lessen the exposure of the people by issuing instructional materials and as much as 90,000 masks.
Prolonged inhalation of asbestos particles may cause inflammation of the lungs. Once inhaled and retained in the respiratory tract, asbestosis may occur, which is a medical condition that causes swelling and hardening of the lung tissue.
Symptoms of the disorder include chest pain, cough, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest.
After many years, asbestos exposure could also lead to the development of a rare form of tumor called mesothelioma, which causes fatal cancer in the lungs, abdomen, heart and testicles.
Takuo Saitou, a Sendai-based attorney and a spokesman for a group tackling defective home issues in the disaster-hit areas said, "There are a lot of people going back into the rubble to search for valuables and photos.
"There are people not even wearing masks. This is like a suicidal act. We want people to know this is a problem."
Details of this report here.

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