In Japan, the production of vehicles, electronics, industrial tools and metals such as steel keep the wheels of the economy turning (Smith, 2018). However, this rapid industrialization had a negative impact on the air quality in Japan. In addition to the air pollutants emitted by exhaust pipes, the industrial zones release huge amounts of harmful pollutants such carbon monoxide and anthropogenic particles (Makiko et al., 2015). Consequently, the air quality has greatly degraded over the years and the increase in atmospheric particles, PM, causes an unbalance in the radiation distribution of the Earth (Makiko et al., 2015). Unfortunately, the environment is not the only one being affected. The hazardous air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide are believed to cause adverse health effects such as the early onset of allergic rhinitis and other respiratory diseases (Chung, 2016). Overall, in this essay, the gravity of air pollution caused by industrial zones in Japan and the effectiveness of the measures implemented and alternative ones will be assessed
2.0 Description of human activity and its impact
The thermal power plants and large-scale factories that make up the industrial zones in Japan release a large amount of hazardous air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and anthropogenic particles like particulate matter, PM2.5 (Makiko et al., 2015). The concentration of particles in the atmosphere, also known as aerosols, depend on natural factors and human activities like industrialization (Makiko et al., 2015). Since Japan is home to large-scale industrial zones, an increase in aerosols has been witnessed over the years. This causes an unbalance in Earth’s radiation through absorbing and scattering of thermal and solar radiation and alters the air composition by promoting chemical reactions (Makiko et al., 2015). A study has been conducted in Osaka, one of the biggest metropolitan cities in Japan to show how the presence of the industrial zones and diesel vehicles alter the atmospheric composition. For example, Figure 1 is a bar graph obtained from this study which shows the number of days of photochemical smog and yellow dust observed in Osaka (Makiko et al., 2015).
Figure 1 shows the bar graph for the number of days of photochemical smog and yellow dust (Makiko et al., 2015).
The composition of the atmosphere is not the only victim. As previously mentioned, air pollutants such as carbon monoxide and anthropogenic particles like particulate matter, PM2.5 degrade the quality of the air and make it unhealthy to breathe. Figure 2 and Figure 3 below gives you an assessment of the Air Quality Index (AQI) in the southern region of Japan.
Figure 2 shows a map of the AQI in southern Japan (“Air pollution in Japan,” n.d)
Figure 3 describes the significance of the AQI (“Air pollution in Japan,” n.d)
It can be observed that in most regions, the air pollution is moderate. However, this is still detrimental to children and adults with respiratory diseases due to the presence of PM2.5, fine particles that travel deep into the cardiopulmonary system (Makiko et al., 2015). In fact, over the years, there has been an increase in respiratory and allergic diseases in Japan. One of the main factors responsible for the increased incidence of allergic diseases is the polluted air (Miyamoto, 1997). People living in urban areas are more prone to suffer from increased coughing, sputum production, wheezing, and throat irritation. For example, a study showed that nitrogen dioxide has been shown to stimulate the production of granulocyte macrophage which affects the airway hyperactivity and asthma (Miyamoto, 1997).
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Furthermore, another study was carried out to find a correlation between the first incident of the allergic rhinitis, a respiratory disease, in pre-school children and the incident levels of pollutants in Taiwan (Chung, 2016). Figure 4 below displays the different level of pollutants and their effects on allergic rhinitis.
Figure 4 shows the relation among different levels of pollutants on allergic rhinitis (Chung, 2016)
Analyzing the above values, it was found that carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides are pollutants which are strongly associated with the onset of allergic rhinitis while O3, PM10 and SO2 didn’t have a significant impact (Chung, 2016). Since industrial air pollutants in Japan contain a significant amount of NOX and CO, people living close to industrial zones are prone to this adverse health effect (Chung, 2016). Besides, another study was carried out to assess the short-term effect of air pollution on the incidence of spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage (sICH) which can result in mortality if the patient doesn’t receive emergency treatment (Chien et al. 2017). There were two pollutants groups, the carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide group and the particulate matter PM2.5 and the PM10 group that were risk factors of spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage (Chien et al. 2017). It is to be stressed that those 2 groups of air pollutants are present in Japan. Hence, even a moderate AQI can still has adverse effects.
3.0 Evaluation of measures
Japan is continuously experiencing economic growth. To prevent air pollution from reaching fatal levels like it did post World War II, Japan is constantly revising its policies and standards. Through past research, the acceptable levels of air pollutants like soot, dust, sulfur dioxide, classified as smoke, produced by the combustion of fuel and by the production of electricity were established (Murphey and Murphey, 1984) Instead of using ambient standards to control the emissions, specific emission standards were used as policy objectives as they are easier to work with and to monitor (Murphey and Murphey, 1984). For example, a factory or its engine can be designed to limit its emissions of a specific or several pollutants to so many parts per million (ppm). Those ppm standards were set according to the concentration of factories in a particular region (Murphey and Murphey, 1984). Areas where there is heavy pollution are labeled as prescribed areas by government ordinance. In these areas, the emission of smoke is strictly monitored in accordance with the standard of smoke emission. Also, the governor of the district is responsible to inform the public of the risk factors of the continuous fog on their health and request their co-operation to put into practice preventive measures such as wearing of masks. Japan also enforced a no-fault liability for compensation, which holds the enterprises or businesses responsible for health problems resulting from pollution, accidental or not, into the various laws (Hays, 2012).
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The Japanese government also invested in technology that would lessen the carbon footprint of the factories. For instance, the use of dust-collection technologies to capture very small-sized particulate matter is already widespread. The government also encouraged the use of clean technology to run factories (Smith, 2018). This a very ingenious approach as any country will be reluctant to close down their industrial zones as this would impact its economy. However, one way to make them less polluting is the use of green energy. This turned out to be successful as several manufacturers have reported a decrease in overall energy consumption (Smith, 2018). A major machinery manufacturer in Japan known as Komatsu has reported to saving over 40 % in energy costs (Smith, 2018). He achieved this by installing solar panels, using water for cooling and using clean manufacturing technology (Smith, 2018). In fact, Japan is the second largest installer of solar photovoltaics (Smith, 2018)
The whole framework of establishing these environmental quality standards, enforcing several laws and implementing green technologies have proven to be effective till date at curbing air pollution to a certain degree in Japan (Hays, 2012). It is to be stressed that there is no sign of pollution-related diseases which were once present in Japan such as Yokkaichi asthma (Hays, 2012).
What we fail to recognise is that the government has set up successful measures to reduce the overall emission of certain specific pollutants such as soot, dust, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter (Hays, 2012). However, little has been done to control the emission of nitrogen oxide, NOx, and sulfur oxide from especially industries which can have adverse health effects as seen in Figure 4 (Ui, 2018). Since China has successfully lessen the amount of these pollutants through desulfurization technology and de-nitration equipment, Japan should definitely acquire this technology and implement it as soon as possible. Also, since the number of factories keeps increasing, the government has to revisit the environmental standards and relocate certain industrial zones if necessary. It cannot be denied that it will be a costly process and might slow down the GPD for a certain period of time, but it is the price that comes along with sustainable economic growth.
We can clearly see that industrialization in Japan comes with a cost. Japan has definitely come a long way from having air pollution-related illnesses to a moderate air quality in most cities through the enforcement of laws and embracing green technologies. However, the air still contains pollutants such as PM2.5 and NOx that pose a threat to residents, especially those with respiratory issues. Since the industrial zones in Japan will keep increasing, it will have to lessen the net amount of hazardous industrial pollutants like nitrogen oxide by investing in new technologies like desulfurization and constantly revisiting its policies.
- Makiko. N., Itaru. S., and Sonoyo. M. (2015). Air pollutants in Osaka (Japan). Front. Environ. Sci.
- Miyamoto, T. (1997). Epidemiology of pollution-induced airway disease in Japan. Allergy, 52(38).
- Chien, T-Y., Ting, H-W., Chan, C-L., Yang N-P., Pan R-H., Lai K.R. and Hung, S-I. (2017). Does the short-term effect of air pollution influence the incidence of spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage in different patient groups. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 14(12).
- Chung, H-Y., Hsieh, C-J., Tseng, C-C. and Yiin, L-M. (2016). Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 13(3), 268.
- Murphey, R., and Murphey, E. (1984). The Japanese Experience with Pollution and Controls. Environmental History Review, 8(3), 284-294.
- Hays, J. (2012, October 12). Hays, J. (2012, October 12). Environmental issues and pollution in Japan: Asbestos, Minamata Bay and pollution from China. Retrieved November 4, 2018, from http://factsanddetails.com/japan/cat26/sub162/item870.html
- Smith, B. (2018, August 08). Japan: Environmental Issues, Policies and Clean Technology. Retrieved from https://www.azocleantech.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=539
- Ui, J. (n.d.). Industrial pollution in Japan. Retrieved November 4, 2018, from http://archive.unu.edu/unupress/unupbooks/uu35ie/uu35ie00.htm#Contents
- The World Air Quality Index project. (n.d.). Air Pollution in Japan: Real-time Air Quality Index Visual Map. Retrieved from https://aqicn.org/map/japan/#@g/37.4541/136.604/5z