Acid attack

IN JAPAN, elementary school magazines have been selling particularly well recently due to the mini easy-to-use acid rain measuring kits attached to the inside of the magazines' back cover. A chemical is placed in a small plastic container. When acid rain falls on it, the color changes, and from this the acidity content in the rain can be read.

Readers send back these figures to the publishers. In 1994 summer, some 51,000 observations were returned, and this year almost the same number have been returned by elementary schoo)goers, Based on these results, a national acid rain intensity map is likely to be charted.

Acid rain has been frequent in Japan as it had been in Northern Europe and North America, and now it has become just as noticeable. Should it continue, its influence may well become widespread as may concerns about it.

Japan's Environment Agency has established a national monitoring network. Records from 1994 show that the Ph (acidity or alkalinity of a solution/soil expressed numerically) in rainfall in 28 places averaged 4.8 with acidic rainfalls reported in both urban and rural areas ranging between Ph 4.5 -to 5.8. The situation has remained constant for 10 years.

J. Acid deposition has degraded lakes, swamps and wetlands to such an extent that organisms cannot thrive in northern European waters. According to an Environment Agency survey, almost all rivers, lakes and marshes in Japan have a Ph of around 7.0, but some with low Ph levels were also found.

The Japanese government has recognized that deterioration, drying and death of greenery has occurred nationwide, and in 1994, the Agency said it could not deny that acid rain was responsible for this situation. This was the first time the government has officially recognized these adverse environ- mental impacts.

In 1958, factories of the Yokkaichi industrial complex in central Japan, generated air pollution due to S04 resurting in decreased harvests of wet rice. In other words, air pollution had a negative impact on vegetation, and in 1961, many people developed breathing difficulties and other- health problems. Tetsuro Taniyarna of Mie University reported that an S04 concentration of 0.02 per cent per month would have a negative impact on vegetation growth.

Winter winds blow from Asia eastward over the adjacent seas and lands so that so2 emissions from China and the Korean Peninsula are carried across the Sea of Japan to Japan, Japan's close neighbour China alone produces 2,000,000 torme/year of so, today.