A prefecture in southwestern Japan yesterday advised residents to stay indoors or wear masks when they go outside, in the nation's first official health warning over smog drifting from China.
Officials in Kumamoto, on Kyushu island, said the air quality was likely to be substantially below national standards, amid warnings of health risks for the young and the sick. Of specific concern is the concentration of particulate matter 2.5 micrometres or less in diameter, which has been as high as 50 micrograms per cubic metre in Kyushu. The government safe limit is 35 micrograms.
The Environment Ministry in Tokyo has said local authorities should issue warnings when concentrations rise to an average of 70 micrograms per hour.
The government in Kumamoto, hundreds of kilometres to the east of China, said readings were as high as 110 micrograms in some places yesterday morning. It advised local residents to stay indoors and not to exercise outside, while encouraging them to wear a surgical mask when they ventured out.
A thick fug of pollution has blanketed Beijing and other Chinese cities a number of times over recent weeks. Last month, Japanese media reported a swirl of pollution was making its way from China, further complicating strained relations between Tokyo and Beijing, who are squabbling over disputed islands.
Kyodo News reported yesterday that a meeting of environment ministers from Japan, China and South Korea set to take place in May will discuss ways to combat pollution. The toxic haze that blankets China has been blamed on emissions from coal- burning power stations, but also on exhaust fumes from vehicles on the traffic-clogged streets of the world's largest car market.