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Q1: What symptoms have appeared as a result of air pollution? In what way have pollution-induced illnesses been recognized?

A: In areas where many factories are sited, many people started complaining of various symptoms such as eye irritation, colds that are hard to get over, and persistent coughing. Not a few people came down with grave symptoms, an example being people who died from violent asthma attacks. In those days people who believed the cause to be factory particulate emissions began citizens’ movements demanding that their health be protected. But no one took their complaints seriously. Government said it was unlikely that factory smoke alone caused such illnesses, and business said it could not be helped because the factories were sustaining Japan’s prosperity.Meanwhile, medical practitioners witnessing this harm with their own eyes demonstrated that certain illnesses tended to occur among people living in areas with heavy air pollution.These persevering efforts by citizens and researchers over long years was the certification of pollution-induced illnesses.

Q2: Under what criteria are air pollution patients certified?

A: Pollution illnesses can be roughly divided into two types.

One is “specific illnesses,” in which, as Minamata disease and itai-itai disease, there is a definite causal relationship between the sickness and the pollutant that causes it.

The other type is “nonspecific illnesses,” for which determining the causing substance is difficult because respiratory ailments like bronchial asthma have causes other than air pollution.

In some areas where it appears that air pollution has the most serious impacts, causality is acknowledged because respiratory illnesses occur with great frequency. Thus even “nonspecific illnesses” are recognized as pollution illnesses and certified.

Under the Pollution-Related Health Damage Compensation Law, which is the national program for helping pollution victims, the illness are certified for compensation if they satisfy the following two conditions.

(1) A victim has been living or working for a certain period of time in an area with heavy air pollution and many cases of illnesses like bronchial asthma.
(2) The illness is one of the following obstructive, chronic respiratory disorders demonstrated epidemiologically to be caused by air pollutants: Bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, asthmatic bronchitis, emphysema, and their secondary diseases.

Q3: How did voluntary autonomous patient organizations like the Air Pollution Victims Association come about?

A: It was extremely difficult for pollution victims to become aware of their own illnesses, publicly declare it, and band together.

First of all, symptoms such as the attacks caused by respiratory ailments often appear at night or at dawn, so they are not readily apparent to others. Victims are thus incapable of working as much as others, or being active at school, which saddled them with the prejudiced view that they are shirking.

Victims also feel it bad that they are a liability to their families, and tend to eschew participation in social activities.

Further, it was often the case that, in places like company towns, people who participated in the campaigns of victims’ associations were regarded as obstructing community prosperity.

What is more, there was prejudice based on the misconception that taxes are used to pay compensation when in actuality these costs are covered by the contributions of businesses that emit air pollutants.

The following factors were the reasons that victims became aware of their own pollution illnesses and initiated campaigns.

(1) Broad public opinion was built up against pollution.

(2) Physicians and scientists demonstrated the causal relationship between pollution and illness, and explained it in easy-to-understand terms.

(3) Thanks to cooperation from lawyers and other legal experts, the struggle to win compensation for health damage was recognized as constitutionally justified (the right to wholesome and cultured living, Article 25).

(4) The Four Great Pollution Lawsuits and other actions demonstrated liability for causing harm.

In Amagasaki City (Hyogo Prefecture), for example, a housewife who herself suffered from pollution illness was encouraged by local citizens’ groups and specialists, unflaggingly called on the homes of pollution victims, and built a victims’ organization. The Air Pollution Victims Association came about through persevering campaigning like this.

In time the pollution victims’ movement won a compensation system, and pollution illness victims were institutionally recognized. As a result, pollution victims were in time able to come forward and admit their own illnesses without worrying about adverse treatment.

As time passed, government also welcomed the existence of organizations that represent victims’ interests because this allowed the compensation program to work effectively. In this way the compensation program for pollution victims broadened the conditions for nationwide activities by the Association.

Q4: What benefits did the Air Pollution Victims Association confer on victims?

A: It performed two major roles.

The first is its role as a campaign nucleus that unified people in the struggle to eliminate pollution, and to protect and expand the compensation program for victims. During the campaign to pass the Pollution-Related Health Damage Compensation Law, the Association built links all around the country, such as by forming the National Liaison Council for Pollution Victims Organizations. Forming a nationwide organization not only advanced the movement in all parts of the country, but also served as a powerful force to propel the movement, as by presenting a unified front in making demands to the national and local governments, and making those demands come true.

Second, the Association helped people learn the specifics of the compensation program and use it, in addition to serving as a mutual assistance group where pollution victims can share their concerns and help one another.

The compensation program is complicated and hard for people to understand, and its procedures are very troublesome. In the Association, pollution victims have often studied the program with one another, and helped each other.

The Association has also provided for friendship among victims through initiatives that help them treat their illnesses, such as camps for asthmatic children and recuperation at places with clean air.

Q5: How could pollution victims carry on this grim struggle for so long while suffering with their llnesses?

A: First, their struggle was driven by the earnest hope that their children and grandchildren would not have to endure such torment. Exactly because they knew the suffering of pollution illnesses better than anyone else, they were able to take the lead and persevere in the movement to eliminate pollution. Also, creation of the Association provided the strength they needed because it allowed them to encourage each other.

Second, there was selfless cooperation by professionals and citizens in many fields. Lawyers, physicians, and medical scientists played a major role. Among citizens there was support from local educators, people working at medical care facilities, labor unions, consumer organizations, environmental groups, and more.

The third was the role of local governments. Owing to the groundswell in public opinion opposing pollution and seeking redress for pollution victims, local governments ― that is a part of the administrative apparatus closest to the lives of the people ― initiated studies, lodged accusations against polluting businesses, and moved faster than the national government in establishing programs for people with pollution illnesses to provide redress and assist health recovery.

The fourth was the role played by the Pollution-Related Health Damage Compensation Program, which, although only partial, paid livelihood compensation and thus supplied the pecuniary conditions to support the movement.

Q6: What roles did lawyers and other jurists play?

A: For pollution victims who found it difficult to be active themselves, lawyers stood in by helping with organizing, coordinating campaigns, and otherwise dedicating their efforts to the victims in order to achieve redress, and they also did a major service in program improvement and the like.

One reason for their dedicated activities is, first of all, Japan’s Attorneys-at-Law Act, which specifies in Article 1 that lawyers must work for the sake of justice. This is a big difference from the lawyer systems in Western countries, in which lawyers give priority to their clients’ interests. Further, bar associations pursue joint initiatives for social justice. Additionally, many Japanese lawyers run their own small law offices, a system that allows them to conduct activities at their own discretion and thereby constitutes a platform for social movement activities.

What is more, contact with pollution victims and seeing directly how they live was a helpful experience for lawyers as people who have a mission to safeguard social justice.

Q7: What role did medical care practitioners play?

A: For pollution victims, hospitals and clinics played an indispensable role because they were a part of their everyday lives and provided dedicated medical care to the community.

Self-sacrificing private practitioners, the medical institutions founded by community residents with their own funding, and other medical people worked actively, such as by bringing to light the truth of pollution harm and supporting victims.

Physicians’ organizations such as health insurance physicians’ associations and medical associations also played a vital role in establishing the compensation programs for the victims. The medical association in Osaka’s Nishiyodogawa Ward expended great effort in establishing local and national compensation programs, and it set up the first pollution illness medical care center in Japan.

One factor behind the efforts of medical practitioners was Japan’s national health insurance system, which alleviated the financial burden incurred by pollution victims in seeking medical care.

And as compensation systems were put in place, they paid all costs for pollution victims and allowed medical institutions to provide patients with regular and consistent treatment.

Q8: What role did scientists play?

A: The occurrence of air pollution is governed by a variety of complex conditions including industrial policy, community development and urban planning, pollution control technology, and weather patterns, thereby necessitating studies and research by scientists in many disciplines in order to determine pollution causes, pinpoint the responsibility for them, and develop remedial measures.

As the initiatives of scientists specifically addressed the actuality of harm by pollution, scientists contributed to determine causes and to find remedial measures through their testimony in court and in other ways.

By way of these advances in pollution research by scientists, and the interaction of scientists with community residents and pollution victims, the first Japan Environmental council was held in 1979. The subsequently founded Japan Environmental Council takes steps to address pollution and environmental problems as they arise with the cooperation of scientists working on environmental problems, community residents, and victims.

Q9: What about the role of local governments?

A: Over the years local governments have had both confrontational and cooperative relationships with pollution victims, but basically they have provided vital livelihood support for victims.

Pollution victims’ groups around the country have participated in citizens’ campaigns to democratize local governments, and have pursued initiatives to translate victims’ demands into reality.

In the latter half of the 1960s, when pollution became a grave problem, candidates fielded by citizens’ groups won a number of mayoral elections. These democratic local governments beefed up pollution-control measures, established programs to help pollution victims thus predating the national program, and led the way to the establishment of the national program.

In Amagasaki, Kurashiki, Kawasaki, and other cities, local governments used funds contributed by businesses to run their own programs for pollution victims to recuperate in locations with clean air.

In those days local governments accorded top priority to industrial policies such as by attracting industry to their areas. But local governments’ progress in addressing pollution problems comprised some admirable and self-sacrificing efforts by local government employees, such as those of Osaka City, which organized the “Nishiyodogawa Special Pollution Investigation Squad” that scrutinized pollution sources, lending guidance and making recommendations to badly polluting ones, and Yokkaichi City employees, who disclosed pollution problems at a national meeting of a local government workers’ labor union.

Q10: How does the Pollution-Related Health Damage Compensation Program work?

A: This law was established in 1973 and implemented the following year.

It is very difficult to demonstrate that a certain pollutant has induced illness when looking at individual victims. This program therefore learned from local governments’ programs, which preceded this national program. This is how the national patient certification system works.

1. Designate areas in which there is at least a certain level of air pollution, and where this pollution causes illness in many people (class I areas).
2. Designate as air pollution patients people who have lived or worked in a class I area for at least a certain period of time, and who suffer from one of the following chronic obstructive respiratory ailments: Chronic bronchitis, bronchial asthma, asthmatic bronchitis, emphysema, and their secondary diseases.
3. Certified patients are given the following seven benefits: (1) medical care expenses, (2) handicap compensation, (3) compensation for survivors, (4) lump compensation payment for survivors, (5) child compensation allowance, (6) medical care allowance, and (7) funeral expenses. Handicap compensation, just as with labor accident compensation and the like, is paid in accordance with the level of health damage and based on 80 percent of a worker’s average wages.
4. The program is financed by group contributions from all polluters. (1) Eighty percent is obtained by collecting pollution levies from all businesses in Japan emitting air pollutants, based on their emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx), and (2) the remaining 20 percent comes from automobile weight tax to cover air pollution emitted by motor vehicles.

This program made it possible to benefit pollution victims broadly. Further, polluting businesses that cause these illnesses started efforts to cut their pollutant emissions in order to reduce their levies. This led to the development of better pollution control technologies, which in turn realized the substantial mitigation of SOx pollution.

In 1987, however, the government revised the Pollution-Related Health Damage Compensation Law, and changed its name to the Pollution-Related Health Damage Compensation and Prevention Law. In March 1988 it canceled class I area designations, and stopped certifying new pollution patients.

Q11: What are the features of the Pollution-Related Health Damage Compensation and Prevention Law?

A: This 1987 law represents a switch from a system concerned mainly with compensating pollution victims to a system that includes preventing health damage.

It consists mainly in two types of operations: (1) Those that focus on human health and provide for the assurance and recovery of health, and (2) those that focus on the environment itself, transforming it to eliminate the possibility of causing health damage. Specific operations are shown in the following figure. Funding sources are contributions from businesses and other sources of air pollutant emissions, and investment yields from the fund of the Pollution-Related Health Damage Compensation and Prevention Association, which was established with a fiscal contribution from the national government.

This system translates into reality the hopes of pollution victims to improve the environment and keep health damage from happening again. However, as a system to make up for the discontinuation of help for new pollution victims, both the remedial measures and funding are terribly inadequate, making the law incapable of dealing with the reality of increasing asthma victims and appalling environments.

●Today’s Air Pollution Lawsuits

After mid-1970s, patients and victims who were suffering from air pollution went to court in order to stop the emissions of SO2 , NO2 and SPM exceeded the environmental quality standards, and to require the compensation for damage. They are pursuing the causality between air pollution from motor vehicle and health damage, and the administrative liability to cause pollution of the National Government and the Highway Public corporations who built and control the roads. Automobile manufacturing companies are some of the defendants in Tokyo Pollution Lawsuit in 1996.

1. Chiba Kawasaki Steel Pollution Lawsuit

1st file : May 25, 1975

The defendants: Kawasaki Steel Corp., Inc.

Reached to a reconciliation : August 1992

2. Osaka Nishiyodogawa Pollution Lawsuit

1st file : April 20, 1978

The defendants : The National Government, the Hanshin Expressway Public Corporation, Kansai Electric Power Co., Inc. and other 9 companies

Reached to a reconciliation with companies : March, in 1995, reached to a reconciliation with the National Government and the Hanshin Expressway Public Corporation

3. Kawasaki Steel Lawsuit

1st file : may 18, 1982

The defendants: the National Government, Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation, Tokyo Electric Co.,. Inc. and other 11 companies.

Reached to a reconciliation with companies and is in dispute with the National Government and Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation : December,1997

.4. Kurashiki Pollution Lawsuit

1st file : November 9, 1983

The defendants : Kawasaki Steel Corp. Inc. and other 7 companies

Reached to a reconciliation : December 1997

5. Amagasaki Pollution Lawsuit

1st file : December 26, 1988

The defendants: the National Government, Hanshin Express Public Corporation, Kansai Electric Power., Inc. and other 8 companies

6 Southern Nagoya Pollution Lawsuit

1st file: March 31, 1989

The defendants: the National Government, Chubu Electric Power,. Inc. and other 10 companies.

7 Tokyo Pollution Lawsuit

1st file: May 31, 1996

The defendants: the National Government, Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation, the Government of Tokyo, TOYOTA and other 6 companies
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