Oops - Nissan Motor has discovered asbestos in motor vehicles it produced between 1995 and 1999, despite the March 1996 declaration that it had stopped using the harmful material in its products.

According to Kyodo News, the car maker apologised for its past ''improper information disclosure'' on the use of asbestos, which is blamed for causing a rare cancer called mesothelioma.

Nissan said 165,804 vehicles produced for the domestic market during the period were equipped with asbestos-containing components such as engine air cleaners. The vehicles included Sunny car models.

Given a large number of parts from suppliers, Nissan was unable to check the use of asbestos in them on its own, the automaker reportedly said, adding that the chances of the asbestos leaking are nil as it is kept airtight in the parts.

The company banned the use of asbestos by suppliers in September 1994 before declaring its discontinuation of the material.

Public interest in asbestos has been growing sharply as 953 people died from mesothelioma in Japan in 2004, a nearly twofold increase from 500 in 1995, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Kyodo noted.