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[From WSJ ]|
Residents of Kumamoto Prefecture on Japan’s southwestern island of Kyushu were asked to voluntarily stay in their homes Tuesday, after air pollution levels surpassed government safety standards.
The request was the first since the environment ministry released new safety guidelines in February, and came as Japan grows increasingly worried about toxic air pollution spilling over from China and threatening Japanese coastal areas.
A spokesman for the prefecture said readings made at one of the prefecture’s 18 checkpoints, Arao-city in northern Kumamoto, indicated that levels of “PM 2.5″ were above 85 since early morning, “so we decided to issue the warning.”
PM 2.5 is particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less that can be inhaled causing asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer and other illnesses.
The spokesman said that while studies on the contents of the PM 2.5 would be carried out, there was a strong likelihood it had come from China.
The ministry’s new guidelines advise local governments to warn residents when PM 2.5 levels exceed 70 micrograms per cubic meter on a daily average. The ministry’s normal environmental standard is 35 micrograms.
The government has said the concentration of PM 2.5 could surpass 70 micrograms per cubic meter on a given day if the average from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. exceeds 85 micrograms for that checkpoint.
As to whether the pollution is really coming from China, in a report released in February, the National Institute for Environmental Studies said the results of its observations and a simulation model indicated a “high probability” that “trans-boundary air pollution” has been responsible for high levels of PM 2.5, especially in southwestern Japan.
To help China reduce its pollution emissions--which threaten not only Japan but also other neighboring countries such as South Korea--Tokyo has been offering technological cooperation to help Beijing get its emissions under control.
But China has been reluctant to accept such aid, according to Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara. At a press conference Saturday, he said such assistance could help improve ties between the two countries that have been strained by an ongoing territorial dispute, according to local media reports.
But if the Japanese are worried about what pollution from China is doing to them, consider the situation for the people who live there.
On Thursday last week, concentrations of PM 2.5 per cubic meter in Beijing breached 500 micrograms at one point, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.