TOKYO, April 28 (UPI) -- Japanese officials say they are setting up an asbestos education program to protect workers clearing debris from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Asbestos, once widely used as a construction material, can cause mesothelioma and lung cancer. It can take up to 30 years for the diseases to develop.
"We hope they will work with the danger of asbestos in mind," an official with the health ministry said.
The educational program will tap a variety of scholars and leaders of non-profit organizations knowledgeable about asbestos, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Thursday.
Asbestos control instructors will be assigned to local labor inspection offices to oversee and consult with workers and volunteers removing debris from areas damaged by the twin disasters.
Japan's health ministry has distributed 90,000 dust prevention masks although many workers do not wear them because they restrict breathing. It will soon distribute 600 high-efficiency filter masks with electric fans to make breathing easier.
"Safety and health education must be improved at actual working sites," a senior health ministry official said.