TOKYO, July 21 (UPI) -- The Japanese government admitted it made a "crucial mistake" by failing to follow up on a directive in 1976 that warned about the health hazards of asbestos.
In 1976, the former Labor Ministry issued the directive that called on prefectural labor standards bureaus to inform companies of the dangers of asbestos as well as to encourage companies to take measures to prevent health problems.
However, the central government waited until 2004 to impose a ban, in principle, on asbestos use, the Asahi Shimbun reported Thursday.
"There have been many aspects in the government's handling (of the problem) on which the government should reflect," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda admitted at a news conference Thursday. "There have been many victims and we should have dealt with the problem in a more solid way. Something needs to be done urgently."
Hiroyoshi Nishi, senior vice minister at the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, said, "No follow-up was conducted even though the facts were known. Personally, I believe it was a crucial mistake."
The government intends to ban the use of all forms of asbestos in 2008.