Smog from China spurs new gov't guidelines on going outside
The Environment Ministry has announced that it will recommend the public do not venture outside unless necessary on days on which fine particulate air pollution is high.
Particulate air pollution is believed to be coming from China to Japan. The smog has been dubbed PM2.5 in Japan. These particles, which are smaller than 2.5 micrometers in size, tend to penetrate into the lungs and the circulatory system. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that PM2.5 leads to high plaque deposits in arteries, causing vascular inflammation and a hardening of the arteries, which can lead to heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems.
Fuji TV reported Tuesday that the Environment Ministry says it is considering recommending people do not go outside unless necessary when the airborne density exceeds 35 micrograms per cubic liter. It will also recommend avoiding the use of ventilation while at home. Separate recommendations are to be drawn up for those with a history of heart and lung problems.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that fine particulate air pollution causes mortality from cardiopulmonary disease, mortality from cancer of the trachea, bronchus, and lung, and mortality from acute respiratory infections in children under 5 years of age. Researchers suggest that even short-term exposure at elevated concentrations could significantly contribute to heart disease.
The ministry claims that there is insufficient data to determine the potential health problems that may be caused by an increase in fine particulate air pollution. However, it has announced plans to call on 130 local governments to set up monitoring stations to aid future research.
Meanwhile, the ministry said its website has been overloaded as worried users log on to try to find out what is coming their way. “Access to our air-pollution monitoring system has been almost impossible since last week, and the telephone here has been constantly ringing because worried people keep asking us about the impact on health,” said an environment ministry official.
Pictures of Beijing and other Chinese cities shrouded in thick, choking smog played out across television screens in Japan last week. News programs have broadcast maps showing a swirl of pollution gathering strength across China and then spreading out over the ocean toward Japan.
Pinks, reds and oranges that denote the highest concentrations form a finger of smog heading toward Kyushu.
Toshihiko Takemura, an associate professor of Kyushu University who runs an air pollution monitoring site, said “the impact of air pollution originating from China on Japan was scientifically discovered more than a decade ago. Especially in Kyushu, the level of air pollution has been detectable in everyday lives since a few years ago.”
Takemura said that people with respiratory diseases, as well as small children, should take extra care to avoid the problems.