Scientists: China’s Polluted Air Killing Japanese Trees

Posted on 25.04.2013

On the Japanese island of Yakishima, a few hundred miles away from Shanghai, trees are dying. Osamu Nagafuchi, an environmental engineer, has long maintained that the cause of their death  is airborne pollutants being swept in from China, which lies upwind.

Until recently, his warnings have been ignored, and even derided by Japanese scientists and by the bureaucrats responsible for the forest. However, over the past few years there have been health scares in other parts of Japan related to potentially dangerous airborne particles being carried over the wind from China, and fears have been heightened by China’s own public warnings about hazardous levels of pollution in their major cities.

Now, Japanese experts are beginning to reconsider Nagafuchi’s hypothesis, especially since Yakishima is far removed from Japan’s own industrial bases. The island’s residents are also concerned, fearing that their own health is at risk.

No conclusive evidence has come in yet, but the situation in Yakishima raises interesting questions about air pollution and politics. Although we’ve often pointed to global warming and climate change as the impact that individual countries’ laws on air pollution have on world as a whole, this is an example of the direct impact one country’s air pollution has on its neighbors. How to regulate the movement of particles, or prevent pollution from one country from crossing the border into the next? Is it fair that one country’s policies can have such an impact on its neighbors, and thus undermining their own initiatives? These questions will have to be addressed as different countries set different priorities for their energy legislation, as though the air within their borders truly belonged only to them.

Invisible Dust has been working to raise awareness about air pollution, and the impact poor air quality has on our lungs.

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