China’s smog polluting Fuji, new study says


A Japanese study is claiming that toxic air pollution from China is to blame for high mercury levels atop beloved Mount Fuji.

The research will do little to cool the hostilities simmering between the Asian giants, whose relationship is currently marred by a territorial dispute and historical animosities.

“Whenever readings were high, winds were blowing from the continent (China),” Osamu Nagafuchi, the lead scientist on the study, said recently.

Mount Fuji was chosen “because it’s a place unaffected by urban pollution,” said Nagafuchi, an environmental science professor at the University of Shiga.

Pollution levels on Mount Fuji have been monitored annually since 2007, he said, adding the decision to carry out the study on the 3,776-meter peak had nothing to do with it being designated a UNESCO World Heritage site earlier this year.

The designation, delayed by years of efforts to remove tons of trash from the iconic peak, which figures heavily in Japanese art and literature, preceded this summer’s climbing season.

Mercury levels around the top of the mountain were up to double the levels detected in other places free of heavy pollution, according to the survey, conducted in August with nonprofit group Valid Utilization of Mount Fuji Weather Station.

The mercury levels were as high as 2.8 nanograms per cu. meter of air. That exceeds the 1.0 to 1.5 nanograms normally detected in clean locations but is well below the government’s 40-nanogram threshold for posing risks to human health. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram.

The higher-than-expected readings are likely due to Chinese factories burning coal, which releases mercury and other toxic elements such as arsenic, whose levels were also elevated, according to Nagafuchi.

The study comes as fast-industrializing China wrestles with a severe urban smog problem linked to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths. Last month, the Chinese government vowed to reduce levels of atmospheric pollutants in Beijing and other major cities by as much as 25 percent to try to improve their dire air quality.

  • bridgebuilder78

    Mount Fuji pollution is the least of your worries. Your focus should be on Fukushima. God forbid, if you fail to plug that giant radioactive hell hole, we who live in California will be living a nightmare a year from now.

    • Jake

      It’s not the Mount Fuji pollution that is the concern, if you look past the headline and apply some basic analytic skills, a person of average intelligence would understand from this article that China’s pollution is affecting all of Asia, including South Korea and Japan. Mount Fuji just happened to be a good place to measure such pollution level due to relatively pure air free from urban pollution

      That being said, I do agree that Japan should focus on Fukushima. The timing of this study seems politically motivated, as if to say “Well, China is screwing up too;” although I suppose that it’s a good motivator to keep each other on its toes since environmental concerns ultimately affect everybody.

      But what this article makes me concerned about is the censorship in regards to what isn’t being publicized in China. At least TEPCO and I suppose their Japanese sensibilities feel the responsibility to inform the public on the harm that they’re causing.

  • Kembots

    Enough with the anti-China smokescreen, there’s air pollution everywhere. Every morning we see pollution readings on TV, but where the hell are the radiation readings? Even newspapers do not post these anymore.

  • bridgeburner78

    “severe urban smog problem linked to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths”
    Thank goodness we’ve mothballed the nuclear facilities (which have caused zero radiation deaths) and are burning fossil fuels again in Japan!

    • thedudeabidez

      There are plenty of people willing to pour money into renewables here if they can get on the grid. Yet the government is so committed to the nuclear project and its related kickbacks that it is making sure there is no reasonable alternative. Higher priced and global-warming contributing fossil fuels (and we can thank Abenomics for the higher price part) or nuclear, take your pick.

      As for radiation-related deaths, we’ll know that over time not at present. This is a deliberately misleading pro-nuclear talking point.

  • oxaloacetate

    Next article is going to be: “China’s toxic smog responsible for leaking radiated water into the Pacific”

  • abinico

    Not smog, but Fukushima will destroy humanity