Asthma patients sue over vehicle emissions

A group of 110 asthma patients in Tokyo filed a suit June 3 against the state, the metropolitan government, Metropolitan Expressway Public Corp. and seven automakers, demanding an end to air pollutant emissions from vehicles and 2.2 billion yen in compensation for damage to their health.

This is the second suit filed over Tokyo air pollution; the first was filed in May 1996. The plaintiffs contend that pollutant emissions from traffic are increasing because of the rising number of diesel automobiles for which, they say, current emission restrictions are not sufficient.

Ninety-three plaintiffs have been recognized as victims of pollution under law and are receiving compensation payments; 16 others have yet to be recognized. The seven automakers, which all make diesels, are: Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Hino, Isuzu, Nissan Diesel and Mazda.

According to the lawsuit, the state and metropolitan government are neglecting their responsibilities to prevent air pollution on 13 national roads, 72 metropolitan arteries and 19 highways in Tokyo. The automakers are accused of causing serious health damage to the plaintiffs by mass-producing and marketing diesel-powered and other autos while they are sufficiently aware that emissions cause serious air contamination.