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FY2010 Annual Report of Environmental Health Surveillance for Air Pollution

April 27, 2012

The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has been implementing environmental health surveillance for air pollution every year since 1996 in response to the amendment of the Pollution-related Health Damage Compensation Law (amendment to the Law Concerning Special Measures for the Relief of Pollution-related Health Damage) of 1988. It aims to regularly and continuously observe the correlation between the health conditions of local populations and air pollution, and to take measures as necessary.
[Overview of the FY2010 Surveillance Result]
The FY2010 surveillance targeted 3-year-old children (hereinafter, "3-year-old survey") and first-year primary school children (hereinafter, "6-year-old survey") as in previous years. A cross-sectional analysis was performed using the results of these surveys (FY2010), and a longitudinal analysis was performed using the integrated results of 3-year-old surveys from FY1996 to FY2010 and 6-year-old surveys from FY2004 to FY2010. Additionally, a follow-up analysis was performed on 6-year-old respondents who also responded to the 3-year-old survey conducted in FY2006 and FY2007.
The 3-year-old survey targeted approximately 93,000 3-year-old children in 38 regions throughout Japan (77,000 respondents), and the 6-year-old survey targeted approximately 93,000 6-year-old children in 39 regions throughout Japan (73,000 respondents).
Among the respiratory symptoms surveyed, the results of analyses relating to asthma were such that in both the 3-year-old and 6-year-old surveys, there was no indication that higher air pollutant concentrations led to higher asthma prevalence, neither in terms of respiratory symptom prevalence at each background concentration level for each subject group nor in the correlation between average background concentration and respiratory symptom prevalence in each survey area for each subject group. An examination of odds ratios showed no significant correlation between air pollutants and asthma prevalence, either. The correlation between air pollutant concentrations and yearly changes in respiratory symptom prevalence was also examined, but the result showed no regions where air pollution may have caused an increase in asthma prevalence. A similar examination was conducted in regard to incidence rate (excluding an analysis of yearly changes), but again, no significant correlation was found between the two.
With respect to symptoms other than asthma, the frequency of catching a cold (more than five time) tended to increase with higher air pollutant concentrations (excluding SO2), but the same trend was not observed with cases of wheezing (both associated and not associated with a cold).
[Future Issues]
A significant correlation between air pollution (SPM) and asthma has been observed in some previous surveys of 3-year-olds and 6-year-olds, but not in this year's survey. The result still cannot be seen as indicating a certain trend, but careful observations will be continued.
In response to the environmental quality standards for PM2.5 that were promulgated in September 2009, a continuous surveillance system is currently being developed, so based on the progress of its development, studies of PM2.5 will be made as needed, also in reference to SPM. Additionally, in regard to growing concerns about the influence of photochemical oxidants on people's health, a close watch will be kept on future developments, including the status of issuance of warnings and revisions of standards in foreign countries.

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