Asthma-pollution connection to be studied in children

The Environment Ministry will launch a five-year survey on 12,000 elementary schoolchildren in fiscal 2005 to study the causal relationship between asthma and air pollution from car emissions, ministry officials said Wednesday.

The large-scale national survey will be the first of its kind, coming 18 years after the government began considering it. The idea was first raised in fiscal 1987, following revisions to the law on compensation for health problems caused by pollution.

The survey also comes after a series of court rulings in recent years that found the government responsible for health problems caused by traffic pollution.

The officials said it took time for the ministry to devise the surveying method, resulting in the long delay in launching the study.

The ministry has included 542 million yen in its budget requests for the next fiscal year to carry out the survey.

It will target students in 40 schools, including those located along highways with heavy traffic, some in areas farther away from main roads and others in rural areas for comparison.

“We have yet to decide on which highways to choose, but I believe such a detailed survey is unprecedented,” a ministry official said.

With the cooperation of the schools, as well as parents and guardians, the ministry will survey whether the students have asthma symptoms, will conduct blood tests and will test the nitric monoxide concentration in their breath, officials said.