National

Smog from Beijing may reach northern Japan

by Shusuke Murai

Staff Writer

The ongoing pollution “red alert” in Beijing may affect northern Japan, a model of weather patterns suggests, although pollutants will be well within safe limits when they arrive.

Noxious smog particles may drift to Hokkaido and elsewhere, according to a new simulation of air currents in the region, but residents do not need to be alarmed, the government said.

The Chinese capital this week sounded its highest ever alert over smoky haze that has engulfed the city, forcing schools to close and requiring half of all private cars to remain unused.

Prolonged exposure to PM2.5 can lead to respiratory ailments and lung cancer.

However, both the government and the simulation scientists believe poisonous smog laden with particles known as PM2.5 will have little effect on the health of people in Japan at this time.

Citing a simulation by the National Institute for Environmental Studies (NIES), chief government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the event in China has caused no significant increase in air pollution, nor are levels likely to soar anytime soon.

For those living in China, however, it is a different matter.

“We will provide Japanese nationals in China with necessary information though the Embassy,” Suga told reporters Tuesday.

Japan will continue to support China’s efforts to cut air pollution through trilateral cooperation with South Korea, he said.

NIES senior researcher Atsushi Shimizu, who worked on the simulation of air pollution movement, said the current density of pollutants in Beijing — sometimes exceeding 300 micrograms per cubic meter — is a level that has “never been recorded” in Japan and therefore he cannot say what effect it will have on people’s health there.

Health warnings are issued by local municipalities in Japan if levels of PM2.5 reach a mean of 70 micrograms per cubic meter over a 24-hour period — twice the level of the central government’s environment standard of exposure.

Shimizu’s simulation map forecasts Chinese smog engulfing some parts of Hokkaido, but he said the pollution would not trigger serious health problems because it would not reach alarming levels.

The simulation of air pollution in East Asia can be found at Shimizu’s website: jtim.es/VEpGD

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