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A concentration of dioxin 44 times the legal limit was detected in gases emitted from an incinerator in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, municipal officials said Friday.

The Shidare waste disposal firm’s incinerator in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, is reported to have emitted a concentration of dioxin 44 times the legal limit.

Gases from the incinerator operated by the Shidare industrial waste disposal company contained 3,500 nanograms of dioxin per cubic meter, about 44 times the government-set limit of 80 nanograms, the officials said. A nanogram is one-billionth of a gram.

There have been no reports of damage to health caused by the carcinogenic substance, the officials said.

The amount of dioxin is the highest ever detected in waste gases in Japan, according to the Health and Welfare Ministry.

Shidare shut down the incinerator after Toyota city officials searched the company’s premises on March 31, but the city ordered Wednesday that it halt operations until the firm improves the waste disposal facility.

The municipal government will test soil around the incinerator for dioxin contamination, the officials said.

In 1998, Shidare began burning industrial waste, including wood chips and paper, at the incinerator, after obtaining permission from then Aichi Gov. Reiji Suzuki. The facility can burn up to 5 tons of waste a day.

The company was granted a license to collect and transport industrial waste in 1996.

The company was ordered to halt the incinerator’s operation in March 1999 after the structure was declared defective.

In the following month, the firm submitted data to the municipality stating that only 30 nanograms of dioxin per cubic meter had been detected and claimed the work had been carried out to improve the facility. The city allowed it to resume operations.

Local residents, however, subsequently complained that black smoke was billowing out of the incinerator, prompting city officials to search the company in March.

The city commissioned a private research institute to examine the gases emitted from the facility and this study detected the high levels of dioxin.

Police searched Shidare’s offices on June 12 on suspicion that the company left a large amount of industrial waste piled up in an area where disposal is not permitted.