JAPAN -- Makiko Ishikawa always had a hard time breathing. She has been living in Tokyo for decades and in the early 1970s, she had begun to feel the effects of the growing number of contaminants in the air.
Ishikawa's story is only one of many others that share the same plight. There are a number of people, even young ones in their twenties suffering from lung problems like asthma and bronchitis. Their symptoms only get worse because the air they breathe is badly polluted.
Ishikawa is the vice-president of the group that pushes for claims and compensation for their illnesses caused by air pollution. Although this might seem odd, in 2007, several plaintiffs have received compensation for the same claim from automobile companies and the Japanese government.
"Air pollution gives birth to respiratory diseases that make the lives of many people difficult. It has become a public health hazard," explained Takao Nishimura, the lawyer representing the group. "Despite the improvements in the air quality in the last few years, the air pollution in Tokyo, at least in its most central districts is still in the level that causes worry."
The increase in temperatures during the summer, together with the possible scenarios brought about by the preparation for the Tokyo Olympics, has raised a number of concerns for the group. The concerns raised were primarily involving the health conditions of the athletes and the possible problems they may suffer from due to poor quality of air.
While Japan may prove to be less polluted now than its neighboring countries in Asia, its problem with air pollution is not yet over. The air in the country is still dangerously saturated with pollutants. In fact, there are at least 60,000 premature deaths that have been recorded to occur because of the air pollution problem in Japan. This is according to the multi-center study published in The Lancet in 2017.
"Both the European Union and Japan have experienced a decline in the presence of the dangerous air particles, but still, the areas where most people live in seem to be suffering from the most contaminants in the air," the report notes.
As air pollution persists, it could affect the overall health of the citizens in the country. Such a threat to health could require an increase in the country's health care services, disrupting the continuous provision of all the other government-provided services.
Steps have been taken to help reduce air pollution in Japan. It has provided a significant difference in the quality of air in the country but there is still a lot to be done.