Japanese chain recalls millions of asbestos-laden bathroom products

Japanese chain recalls millions of asbestos-laden bathroom products

Julian Ryall

·2-min read
 
 
All the products recalled were manufactured in China, where laws governing the use of asbestos are more lax than in Japan - Getty Images Contributor /Darren Robb 
All the products recalled were manufactured in China, where laws governing the use of asbestos are more lax than in Japan – Getty Images Contributor /Darren Robb

A leading Japanese chain of home furnishings stores has ordered the recall of more than 2.4 million bathmats and other household products that have been found to contain dangerously high levels of asbestos.

Nitori Co, which has more than 600 stores across Japan and has set a target of £7 billion in sales in 2022, has issued recall notices for nine products, including drink coasters and bathroom mats. The company has confirmed that some of the items have been sold through its stores for more than two years. 

The products were all manufactured in China and contain diatomaceous earth, which is used to manufacture solid but porous materials. If the items are worn, crushed or damaged, they can release carcinogenic asbestos particles into the air. 

Inhaling asbestos fibres has been linked to a number of types of cancer, including lung cancer and mesothelioma, according to the World Health Organisation.  

The company said it is examining a further 29 products imported from China, including toothbrush holders, decorative bathroom accessories and umbrella stands.

Customers are being instructed to stop using the products immediately, to place them inside two plastic bags and to seal the bags before returning them to the shop where they were purchased for a full refund. Nitori is also drawing up plans to collect items from households. 

The Japanese government introduced strict new regulations on the import and sale of items containing asbestos in 2006, although the restrictions are more lax in China. 

Another Japanese homeware retailer, Cainz, has similarly identified five products that contain between 0.2 percent and 1.3 percent asbestos, significantly above the 0.1 percent permitted by law. The company is recalling around 290,000 items that were also manufactured in China. 

Environmental groups claim there are cases of imports from China making no mention of asbestos in customs documentation only for it to be discovered in subsequent tests.