• Kyodo

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Nearly 90 percent of people suffering respiratory problems as a result of air pollution during Japan’s high economic growth in the 1950s to 1970s said their symptoms have not improved in the past five years, according to a government study.

Asked in a survey to compare their present health to five years ago, 26 percent said it deteriorated and 61 percent said it was unchanged. Only 13 percent said their health improved.

The survey of 12,000 people, conducted by the Environment Ministry for the first time since the government established a law in 1974 to compensate for health damage from environmental pollution, found 39 percent of the respondents said they suffer frequent symptoms such as asthma, shortness of breath and coughing.

Many are also cash-strapped. They do not have pensions because poor health has prevented them from getting stable employment. The survey showed 46 percent of the respondents said they depend on disability compensation to cover the majority of their daily expenses.

The 1974 law provides compensation for people recognized as suffering from respiratory problems caused by pollution during the high economic growth period in designated areas.

Companies owning factories and plants must pay for 80 percent of the compensation, while the remainder is covered by an automobile tax. But in 1988, the government revised the law and stopped recognizing new patients, saying pollution had lessened.

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