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Japan air purifier sales surge amid China smog warning
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) March 22, 2013

Japan logged a huge surge in air purifier sales last month, as Tokyo warned that smog was blowing into its territory from China, which is grappling with an air pollution crisis.

Acrid haze blanketing swathes of China has sparked health risk warnings in Japan while complicating already strained ties between Tokyo and Beijing, which are embroiled in a tense territorial row over islands in the East China Sea.

The Japanese foreign ministry has proposed a meeting over the issue with Beijing, which has promised action as it faces rising public anger over the persistent problem.

Sales of air purifiers in Japan surged nearly 48 percent to 11.5 billion yen ($122 million) in February from a year earlier, according to a monthly survey by the Japan Electronics Manufacturers' Association released Thursday, as demand for other home appliances was flat.

Japanese shoppers scooped up more than 450,000 air purifier units last month, the data showed.

While the industry body did not cite a reason for the jump, it coincided with warnings from Japanese officials over the Chinese smog while local media has cited pollution as a key reason for the surge.

Japan's environment ministry has also warned over higher-than-usual levels of pollen that leave millions of Japanese suffering from allergies every year.

Traffic pollution may cause 14% of childhood asthma: study
Paris (AFP) March 22, 2013 - As much as 14 percent of chronic childhood asthma may be caused by people living near busy roads and exposed to traffic pollution, a study in 10 European cities found Friday.

The study, released by the European Respiratory Journal, matched local health data with exposure to traffic pollution in Barcelona, Bilbao, Brussels, Granada, Ljubljana, Rome, Seville, Stockholm, Valencia and Vienna.

They calculated proximity to busy roads, defined as carrying 10,000 vehicles per day.

"We estimated that an average of 33,200 asthma cases (14 percent of all asthmatic children) were attributable to near-road traffic-related pollutants," the researchers wrote.

"In other words these cases would not have occurred if no one lived within the buffer zone or if those pollutants did not exist."

The results were comparable, the authors said, to the burden associated with passive smoking -- which the World Health Organisation blames for four to 18 percent of asthma cases in children.

Of the 10 cities studied, a third of the combined population was estimated to live within 75 metres of a busy road, and more than half within 150 metres.

The team also measured traffic pollution's impact on coronary heart disease among older adults, and estimated that 28 percent of such cases may be attributable to near-road exposure.

"Despite uncertainty and limitations, our results indicate that near-road traffic related pollution may be responsible for a large but preventable burden of chronic diseases and related acute morbidities in urban areas," said the study authors.


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Hong Kong light pollution 'one of world's worst'
Hong Kong (AFP) March 20, 2013
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