Tokyo dust storm came complete with China sand

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

The dust storm that hit Tokyo Sunday afternoon, causing watery eyes and reduced visibility, raised public health concerns and suspicions that the smog contained yellow sand and particulate matter from China.

The Meteorological Agency denied the allegation, explaining that the phenomenon was caused by a sudden cold front and strong winds in the Kanto region that roiled dust on the ground.

But Tetsuo Sakamoto, a professor of electrical engineering at Kogakuin University in Tokyo and an expert on pollution analysis, found yellow sand in a dust sample taken Sunday from Nerima Ward that apparently got mixed up with other dust.

“I believe Sunday’s (huge smog) indeed was caused by a dust storm (as the Meteorological Agency reported). But yellow dust (from China was in the mix),” Sakamoto told The Japan Times on Monday, hinting that PM2.5, or particulate matter 2.5 microns in diameter or less posing an increasing health risk in China and in some cases hitting Japan, was also in the smog.

Sakamoto studied the dust sample taken from the surface of a vehicle Sunday afternoon and found not only dust particles, but also calcium chlorite, which he said proves that Sunday’s smog also included yellow sand from China.

When dust from China floats over the ocean, calcium in it reacts with sea salt and turns into calcium chlorite, Sakamoto said.

Calcium reacts with sea salt and becomes calcium chlorite only when pollution particulate acts as an intermediary, leading Sakamoto to believe his sample flew over polluted areas in China before reaching Japan.

He said the yellow dust he found in the sample had apparently settled in Japan earlier but was whipped back up into the atmosphere by Sunday’s strong winds.

Sakamoto added that he did not study the concentration of yellow sand in the sample.

  • http://twitter.com/frankwall1965 Frank Wall

    Bad for Tokyo but at least the people there don’t have to inhale that stuff every day like the Chinese.

  • seetell

    Yes, the winds blow from west to east in Japan and generally everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere above 30 degrees Latitude, historically intensifying during the spring season (March winds). Japan’s air passes over China (including its dust and pollution) before it comes to Japan in the same way the Fukushima radiation has spread across the Pacific to America. So, if the government would be deceptive about this clearly evident incident of natural air flow, what else will it be deceptive about? Radiation? Debt? The economy? Climate change? Nuclear energy? Corruption? The TPP?

  • hilldomain

    or pollution in Tokyo. as if only foreigners have pollution. It would have had to fly way too far and hit other areas in Japan first.

    • Masa Chekov

      It did hit other areas first. Came straight into Kyushu and then all the way to Tokyo.

  • chickeee

    hazy summer nights in Tokyo? Never happens …

    • Masa Chekov

      It’s still winter, and that’s not haze.

  • http://twitter.com/yuta1667 谷口優太

    we have to protects children from bad air pollution. It is our responsibility.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.takada Jeff Takada

    Japan should bring the weather data to the UN and demand compensation from China for this pollution. If China, the uber-polluter (did you see the one about the 1200 dead pigs mysteriously floating down the river there) isn’t brought to heel on this issue, many nations in the regions will be adversely affected. Certainly if they want to desertify and pollute their country that’s their right but such environmental damage should stop at their borders.

    • Bai Sheng

      Industries from all over the world take advantage of the more permissive environmental laws of China to have their most polluting activities relocated there.
      Japanese companies as well, so I guess it is a bit easy to blame it all on China here.
      Then again, what about the 23 billion billions bequerels that were leaked into the sea waters for the past 2 years?
      Do you think the whole world should go to the UN and demand compensation to Japan for polluting the world for the next few thousands of years?
      I kinda doubt it…

  • http://blog.goo.ne.jp/kaotan_rika/ akihiro yamada

    If what this professor says is right, we should suspect Meteorological Agency took political and/or diplomatic factor into consideration for their forecast and observation.