Air pollution levels around the nation remained little changed in 1998 from the year before, with nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants known to cause respiratory disorders still a problem in major cities, according to an Environment Agency report released Tuesday.

Nitrogen dioxide levels exceeded the government-set environmental standard at air monitoring stations in 14 prefectures, with the most transgressions reported in the Kanto and Kinki regions, the annual report on the nation’s air pollution situation says.

In the two urban areas, targeted under a special 1992 law to bring their nitrogen dioxide air pollution levels in line with environmental standards and the rest of the country, only 74 percent of general air monitoring stations, such as those located in residential areas, and 35 percent of roadside air monitoring stations met the recommended level of less than 0.06 parts per million.

Both figures are worse than in past years and fall short of the government’s goal of “most” sites in the two urban regions meeting the environmental standard by the end of fiscal 2000.

Despite the damper the results put on government hopes of achieving a 90 percent success rate by March 2001, agency officials said they plan to redouble efforts to meet the objectives set out in the Law Concerning Special Measures for Total Emission Reduction of Nitrogen Oxides from Automobiles in Specified Areas.

The highest nitrogen dioxide levels recorded were found at roadside survey sites in Kawasaki and Yokohama, six of Tokyo’s 23 wards and one site in Osaka.

At general air monitoring sites, Tokyo’s Koto, Chuo and Arakawa wards topped the list.

In addition to nitrogen dioxide, suspended particulate matter, the result of vehicle, factory and coal-fired power plant emissions, was also found at high levels in urban areas.

Nationwide, SPM air pollution met government standards at 67 percent of general air monitoring stations and 35 roadside monitoring stations.

In the Kinki and Kanto regions, targeted under the automobile nitrogen oxides law, SPM levels met government levels at only 12 percent of roadside monitoring sites and 33 percent of the general survey centers.

Aomori, Nagano and Kochi prefectures are among 13 prefectures that cleared the upper limits for nitrogen dioxide and SPM at all the sites tested.

Sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide levels continued to meet government-set environmental standards at nearly all testing sites, as they have since around 1980.

The study was carried out at 1,724 general air monitoring facilities and 414 air monitoring sites around the country.

The government has said the nitrogen dioxide standard will be met “on the whole” by fiscal 2000 in regions where the law is applicable.

But realization of that goal seems unlikely as the level of air pollution has remained more or less constant over the past decade due to increasing traffic density.

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