• Kyodo News

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In court-mediated talks with asthma patients in Tokyo seeking compensation for their suffering, the government has proposed offering additional asthma countermeasure programs to the capital’s 23 wards, government officials said Wednesday.

Last September, the Tokyo High Court recommended the talks to find an out-of-court settlement following the filing of a damages suit by patients against the state and other road and highway operators, plus automakers. The plaintiffs charged their asthma was the result of air pollution from diesel vehicles on Tokyo roads and highways.

Including these plaintiffs, about 630 asthmatics have joined a series of lawsuits of this kind to date, but more than 110 have since died.

The government has spent 1.4 billion yen a year on asthma prevention programs in 47 designated locations across Japan, but the proposal is designed to reinforce the programs particularly in Tokyo’s 23 wards, where many patients live, they said.

But the state has no plan to accept the plaintiffs’ demands for compensation and an apology, the officials said.

Most of the proposed additional measures, including the leasing of asthma inhalers and critical prevention guidance for adult patients, are addressed directly at patients, as babies and toddlers are already covered. Conventional programs include health counseling for patients, infrastructure-building and research and study, they said.

The 1.4 billion yen budget is a fund run by the quasi-governmental Environmental Restoration and Conservation Agency.

Aside from this, the government has already begun considering tightening the regulation on particulates emitted from diesel vehicles from the current 10 micrometers to 2.5 micrometers as in the United States, the officials said.

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