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FY2012 Annual Report of Environmental Health Surveillance for Air Pollution

May 13, 2014

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. The results of the FY2012 surveillance have been compiled and are presented below.



1. Overview of the Surveillance Result


The FY2012 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 (FY2012), and a longitudinal analysis was performed using the integrated results of 3-year-old surveys from FY1996 to FY2012 and 6-year-old surveys from FY2004 to FY2012. Additionally, a follow-up analysis was performed on 6-year-old respondents who also responded to the 3-year-old survey conducted in FY2008 and FY2009.
The 3-year-old survey targeted approximately 87,000 3-year-old children in 37 regions throughout Japan (73,000 respondents), and the 6-year-old survey targeted approximately 83,000 6-year-old children in 38 regions throughout Japan (71,000 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 concentration level for each subject group nor in the correlation between average 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 (NO2, NOX), but the same trend was not observed with cases of wheezing (both associated and not associated with a cold).



2. 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 as with the surveys conducted year before last and last year, no significant correlation was observed 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 an increasing social interest in 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, consideration will be given to including PM2.5 among the air pollutants that are observed in this survey, such as by estimating its concentration in an experimental manner. Consideration will also be given to photochemical oxidants, which are causing concerns about possible health effects. Meanwhile, as it has been pointed out in the report on the Epidemiologic Studies on Health Effects of Localized Air Pollution in Japan (SORA Project ; an initial letter of "Study On Respiratory disease and Automobile exhaust") that the scientific findings and results accumulated by the SORA Project should be utilized fully for even more effective surveillance, a working group has been established under the Council for Environmental Health Surveillance and Health Effects of Air Pollution in Japan in FY2012. The working group is presently pursuing its agenda, and will continue to engage in its activities hereafter.

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