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Former base workers charge asbestos is danger to them

Date Posted: 2005-09-01

Dozens of former Kadena Air Base workers who used to work with asbestos as part of their jobs have died of lung cancer.

The information came during testimony from many of the former base employees who worked with asbestos during the 1950s through 1980s. A special report by the Okinawa Times chronicles the plight of the workers.

Seven of 29 workers in one group that handled asbestos on Kadena in 1975 have already died, with most discovered to have had lung cancer. The military used asbestos as an insulating material for water boilers and hot water systems until being upgraded in the late 1980s. Former workers testified that normally about 30 employees were exposed to the asbestos as they performed duties as mechanics. They say no special protective suits or masks were provided, and that all they had were paper masks and towels.

In that era, the retired workers say, two boilers wrapped in asbestos were in each of the barracks on base. They say there were dozens of barracks.

Many express fears they may be next to be diagnosed, noting that many of their colleagues died even before retirement, while still on the job. They say theyre worried, and are asking the government to investigate the effects of asbestos in their workplace environment.

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