Parts of Japan smothered in Chinese air pollution

As flights are cancelled and visibility is severely reduced by clouds of sand blown into parts of Japan, authorities warn residents of areas that are most severely affected to wear face masks and avoid going outside.

A dirty, yellow-brown smog rolled across Tokyo Bay like an inexorable wave on Sunday, March 10, engulfing Yokohama’s Bay Bridge, the docks district and the Minato Mirai district of shops, hotels and the largest Ferris wheel in Japan in a haze of dust. What had been a bright spring morning in this coastal city just south of Tokyo had been turned into an afternoon of swirling dirt, with people caught outside choking as they held handkerchiefs to their mouths.

The Japan Meteorological Agency had forecast that the impact of sandstorms in northern China and Mongolia would be felt in the Kanto region surrounding Tokyo over the weekend, although weather patterns have been affecting parts of the country that are closer to mainland China – primarily Kyushu, the most southerly of Japan’s main islands – since early February.

News programs displayed multi-colored graphics showing the progress of the clouds of smog as it rolled across Kyushu and the environment ministry said that its website came close to being overloaded as worried residents attempted to find out how serious the problem was going to be in their districts.

Above official standards

On Saturday, the government of Fukuoka City announced that the average amount of a toxic pollutant in the air known as PM2.5 was above the official national environment standard for a second straight day. The standard is set at 35 micrograms per cubic meter, but it reached 42 micrograms and was the third time since February 15 that the level had surpassed the limit.

PM2.5 is defined as particulate matter that measures smaller than 2.5 microns – or a mere 2.5 thousandths of a millimeter. These particles are usually generated by activities that involve the burning of fossil fuels, such as metal processing and other heavy industrial applications, as well as vehicle emissions.

Experts say this form of airborne pollution can trigger inflammatory responses both in the body’s respiratory tract and blood vessels. Over time, they say, it can cause thickening of the walls of arteries and associated problems.

continue reading Parts of Japan smothered in Chinese air pollution | Asia | DW.DE | 12.03.2013.

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