No clearing the air over neighbor’s pollution

Pollutants from China and their resultant problems are nothing new to Japan. Acid rain, principally caused by high levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in industrial pollutants, has been a concern for several decades.

While Kyushu and western Japan are most vulnerable to pollutants from mainland China, Shukan Asahi Feb. 15 quoted Jotaro Urabe, professor at Tohoku University, as saying testing of soil strata on Mt. Hachimantai in Iwate Prefecture indicates metallic precipitates have increased two to fivefold from the levels of the 1950s, serving as evidence that pollution from China extends over nearly the entire Japanese archipelago.

In addition, over the past half decade, the heavy clouds of seasonal huangsha — called kosa in Japanese and referred to alternatively in English as yellow sand or yellow dust — wafting eastward from the Gobi desert each spring have worsened due to ongoing desertification of the region. No longer just a problem for northern China, they darken the skies over Seoul and Korea and have affected commercial air traffic in western Kyushu.From last month, reports of new pollution problems became ubiquitous in the print media here. While tensions over the disputed Senkaku Islands may have piqued some readers’ desire for any coverage that puts China in a negative light, the topic has sufficient momentum to be treated as an independent story.

A headline in Shukan Taishu Feb. 11 screamed about the arrival of “China’s homicidal air from which protective masks won’t defend.” The article noted that pollution levels measured in Beijing had reached 25 times the level deemed safe. By some estimates the poor air quality results in some 300,000 deaths and 600,000 cases of people being hospitalized for respiratory diseases each year.

continue reading No clearing the air over neighbor’s pollution | The Japan Times.

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