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2013年3月 5日 (火)

PM2.5対策 監視強めて正確な情報提供を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 5, 2013)
More precise data needed in fight against PM2.5 pollution
PM2.5対策 監視強めて正確な情報提供を(3月4日付・読売社説)

In the coming season, when the prevailing westerly winds will gain strength, there is a danger the volume of PM2.5 fine pollutants being blown over to Japan from China will sharply increase.

We hope the Environment Ministry and other offices concerned make meticulous arrangements to monitor the levels of these airborne contaminants and prevent them from harming the health of people here.

PM2.5 is a general term for substances 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter. One micrometer is one-thousandth of a millimeter. These microparticles are about one-tenth the size of cedar pollen, and are tiny enough to pass through an ordinary face mask.

Some experts have pointed out that inhaled PM2.5 particles tend to go deep into the lungs, and can cause asthma, bronchitis or lung cancer. The particulate matter is believed to come from sooty smoke produced by incinerators, vehicle emissions and other sources.

The amount of these particles generated in Japan has been declining, thanks to emission controls and other measures. But air pollution from China that transcends national boundaries has become a problem this year, causing concern about possible health risks to residents mainly in Kyushu and other parts of western Japan.


New guidelines

The Environment Ministry plans to increase the number of monitoring spots to 1,300 from the current 550. This is an essential step for providing detailed information to residents.

It is also necessary to precisely analyze just how much of these substances is actually being blown over from China.

The ministry last week set provisional guidelines under which warnings will be issued to the public if the daily average amount of PM2.5 particles exceeds 70 micrograms per cubic meter of air.

If particulate levels in the air are likely to exceed that figure, Tokyo and other prefectural governments will urge residents to stay indoors and refrain from ventilating their rooms.

The guidelines have been established based on barometers adopted in the United States and the results of epidemiological studies. An expert panel at the Environment Ministry said that even if the concentration of these pollutants reaches this level, it will not necessarily harm every person's health.

The Tokyo metropolitan government and prefectural governments should urge residents to respond calmly to PM2.5 warnings, rather than whipping up unease.

That being said, people with respiratory or heart diseases, children susceptible to the effects of the particles and elderly people need to pay extra attention to changes in their physical condition.

Many aspects of the health hazards of PM2.5 particles remain unknown. We hope researchers make further efforts to provide clear answers to this question.


Japan can help

The most important way to counter the PM2.5 problem is to quell the generation of these substances in China. In Beijing, the level of PM2.5 particles briefly topped 500 micrograms per cubic meter of air on Feb. 28, reaching the most serious level on that country's six-step scale of air pollution.

The daily lives of Japanese living in China also have been affected by the pollution, with Japanese schools restricting children's outdoor activities.

In February, Japan and China agreed Tokyo would extend technical cooperation to help Beijing fight air pollution. The Chinese government must proactively tackle pollution control by drawing on the experiences Japan went through as it overcame its own air pollution problems.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 4, 2013)
(2013年3月4日01時50分  読売新聞)


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