A Tokyo Metropolitan Government-affiliated institution says it may have a solution to the nation’s pollen problem.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Forestry Experiment Station on Friday said it can effectively curb the amount of cedar pollen in the air — which every spring keeps millions in discomfort, sneezing and scratching their eyes — by injecting a relatively cheap and environmentally friendly chemical into the trees.

Pollen extermination, however, won’t start until 2003 at the earliest; the procedure is still experimental.

According to the institution, the number of male flowers, which produce pollen, was reduced 96 percent by injecting a weak solution of maleic hydrazide into the trees. The chemical is usually used to curb the germination of potatoes and onions.

Officials said there have been similar experiments to curb the production of pollen and that the method outlined above is one of the most practical in terms of costs.

The dilute liquid costs 8 yen per liter and is less harmful to the ecosystem compared with other methods, such as the spraying of chemicals into the air.

The institute conducted an experiment in August on 30 young trees, injecting 20 milliliters of the liquid into each tree. The officials said they will start testing on grown trees this summer to further verify the method’s practicality.

The officials said, however, that the chemical injection will be used only as a stopgap measure to curb pollen production before a the planting of different species of cedar trees that produce less pollen. One species called Nishitama No. 2 releases 70 percent less pollen than current trees.

Hay fever is a modern-day malady that makes spring an every-day ordeal for a growing number of people. According to a survey by the Metropolitan Government, in 1996 about 2.24 million — one in five Tokyoites — suffered from the allergy.

In Tokyo, there are some 20,000 hectares of cedar forests, and come spring about 20,000 tons of pollen are produced.

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