The Environment Ministry said Friday it plans to create guidelines for municipalities to issue alerts in case of high concentrations of toxic smog amid growing concern that such pollution is spreading to Japan from China.
Creating standards for such advisories and warnings, and forging broader Japan-China technical cooperation, are among a set of measures listed under the emergency action program unveiled by Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara.
Municipalities on their own have been monitoring concentrations of particulate matter below 2.5 microns, or 2.5 thousandths of a millimeter, in diameter using a total of around 550 observatories.
With the central government having limited access to their data on levels of “PM2.5,” it wants to strengthen cooperation with local governments in the monitoring process.
Under the program, the ministry is calling for stronger technical cooperation with China, where air pollution is worsening, and one of the plans is to expand a smog monitoring network.
The ministry said it will create a panel of seven to eight experts on air pollution and health. The panel, which will hold its first meeting next Wednesday, will gather data to assess the components of PM2.5 and health risks based on the different levels of concentration.
“I want the panel to quickly draft measures on what needs to be done taking into consideration the affect of the Westerlies,” Ishihara said at a news conference, referring to prevailing winds heading from China toward Japan.
To strengthen monitoring of air pollutants, the ministry said it will increase the number of observatories, which were estimated to total 556 as of the end of fiscal 2012, to 1,300.
After setting up a liaison entity with local governments on Feb. 18, the ministry will seek to obtain information of data obtained from pollution monitoring. The ministry’s website will begin releasing monitoring data on PM2.5 on Tuesday.