Jun
3
2014

How Dangerous Is Air Pollution in Japan?

People often ask me if it’s safe to visit Japan.
Of course, most are referring to the 2011 incident in Fukushima. They are worried about radiation. Some are afraid of yet antoher strong quake or tsunami.

However, there’s something else they should be worried about – and that is air pollution!

 

Air Pollution Caused By PM2.5

I’m sure you’ve all heard of PM2.5 – “The Invisible Killer“.
PM2.5 is a mixture of many small, harmful particles that lower the air quality severely.
Here’s a great infographic by Greenpeace East Asia that will tell you everything you need to know about PM2.5 and how to protect yourself (*click to enlarge):

Air Pollution in Japan PM2.5

Air Pollution in Japan And Real-Time Air Quality Map

China has emitted a lot of PM2.5 due to its overreliance on coal and occasionally this ‘crap’ is coming over to Japan. It has become more and more severe in the past few months. There have been a few days when the sky was hazy and visibility was low. Quite scary. To be fair, it’s not only China that causes Japan’s PM2.5 levels to rise. Some of it is “homemade” as well.

PM2.5 is not to be taken lightly. It can harm your health and even lead to cancer!

So, if you plan to visit Japan and are worried about air pollution, you can check the current level of pollution using this real-time air quality map.

Air Pollution in Japan PM2.5

If the sky is very hazy and the real-time radar shows high numbers (which means it’s at a level where it’s dangerous for your health), stay inside. If you need to go out, then wear a mask. But be careful, the typical surgical masks that are commonly worn in Asia won’t work as the particles are too fine. You’ll have to buy special N95 masks to protect yourself.

The air quality in Japan (and East Asia in general) has become quite bad compared to the rest of the world which the following map shows well:

Air Pollution in Japan PM2.5

(*click to enlarge image)

Red means it might be dangerous for anybody’s health (no matter if you have a respiratory disease, are an elderly or pregnant). Violet means it’s very unhealthy and that the entire population might be affected. Darkread means that pretty much everyone might experience serious health effects.

 

Most Japanese Don’t Seem To Be Aware Of Air Pollution

Of course, I don’t know what the majority of Japanese people is thinking. However, from my observations and conversations with Japanese co-workers and friends, it seems like most of them aren’t worried about the recent air pollution at all.

Air Pollution in Japan PM2.5

Example: Osaka (Shigita) – Quality of Air: Unhealthy Level, June 1st 2014

I know that this is a “typical Japanese thing”. I’ve experienced the same behavior after the disaster in 2011. Nobody panicked, everybody stayed calm. But I wonder if that’s the right strategy here. I don’t want anyone to panic, but I think this should be discussed in the media more. People need to be aware of it, so they can work on reducing the emission and also learn how to protect themselves.

I also rarely hear any warnings on TV or read anything in the newspaper. I couldn’t find a single word about the recent super high PM2.5 readings in Western Japan!

 

Air Pollution in Japan: Ignore or Panic?

What’s your opinion about this? I don’t want anyone to panic, but I wish people would be more aware of this issue.
We all have to work hard to cut down crappy emissions like that. Apparently it’s possible. Just look at the world map and you’ll see plenty of countries with clean air.

Do you think there’s anything the individual could do?
How worried are you? Are you wearing masks or staying inside on a day with high pollution levels?
If you don’t live in Asia, were you even aware of this issue?

Let’s discuss in the comments below!~

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