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A Cabinet panel approved a policy proposal Friday to curb dioxin emissions by around 90 percent in four years and set tolerable levels of the substance in the air, as well as look into water and soil standards, the Environment Agency said.

The proposed outline calls for revising guidelines on the tolerable daily intake of dioxin by humans within three months.

The new TDI will be used to calculate and establish dioxin limits for air, and the government will consider setting standards for water and soil. “This policy is important because it forms the basis for future policy,” said Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who chairs the panel, adding that by taking the issue up in the Cabinet, he hopes to tackle it aggressively.

The draft proposes reducing the release of dioxin by more than 85 percent over four years, mostly by toughening regulations on garbage incinerators as well as introducing standards to prevent the concentration of incinerators in a single area, as is the case in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture.

The government has recently come under fire for having two TDI values — the Environment Agency has set 5 picograms of dioxin per kilogram of body fat per day as acceptable, while the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s limit is 10 picograms — and aims to mute criticism by synchronizing these with the new standard. A picogram is one-trillionth of a gram.

Methods for measuring dioxin also need to be enhanced, according to the draft, which calls for establishing a reliable survey system to monitor dioxin contamination and a standardization of testing procedures.

Also under the plan, financial and technological support would be offered to local governments to conduct dioxin studies.

The group agreed to announce details of the plan at its third meeting March 30 after dioxin studies being conducted in Tokorozawa by the Environment Agency, the Health and Welfare Ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are concluded late next week.

Recycling also needs to be encouraged, and currently, construction materials are not being recycled enough, Construction Minister Katsutsugu Sekiya said, noting legislation to encourage recycling in the industry is necessary.

The government also plans to compile a comprehensive record of emission sources, such as incinerators and factories, by June at the latest to more efficiently target cuts in the release of dioxin.

The proposal reiterates the need for government ministries and agencies to work together on studies to gain a more nuanced understanding of the impact of dioxin on human health and the environment, especially around garbage disposal facilities.

The draft also recognizes the government’s need to publicize accurate, easy to understand information as well as pamphlets and a “waste white paper,” and to sponsor lectures to heighten public awareness.

During the council meeting, other ministers emphasized the need to reduce garbage, hold waste producers responsible for disposal and push for development and adoption of technologies that can reduce dioxin emissions during incineration.

Japan burns nearly 75 percent of its garbage annually, accounting for nearly 90 percent of all dioxin released.

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