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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 February 13 - 19  > Air pollution victims file request for state subsidy for medical expenses
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2019 February 13 - 19 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Air pollution victims file request for state subsidy for medical expenses

February 19, 2019
Ninety-four air pollution victims, including asthma sufferers, from across Japan, including Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka, on February 18 filed with the Environmental Dispute Coordination Commission a request for adjudication, demanding that the national government establish a nationwide, uniform system for subsidizing medical expenses.

In the request submitted to the Internal Affairs Ministry’s external organization, the 94 victims also said that seven major Japanese carmakers should also share in providing funds for this subsidy system.

After the submission, a national organization consisting of air pollution victims and their supporters, the Japan Air Pollution Victims’ Association, held a press conference in the Environment Ministry office building.

Representing the association, 72-year-old asthma patient Tsunoda Hayato said, “Medical costs often bring about financial hardship to asthma patients. The national government and automakers should be held accountable to victims of traffic-related air pollution which is a strong trigger of asthma. The government should create a subsidy system without delay so that all victims across Japan can receive financial assistance for their medical treatment.”

Ishikawa Makiko, who heads the 94-member group, got asthma 40 years ago. She said, “Asthma medication costs too much, so I sometime hesitate to see my doctor even when I get an asthma attack.” Looking back on the time when the Tokyo government subsidized those suffering from asthma due to exposure to air pollutants, Ishikawa said, “Public assistance will enable patients of environmental-related respiratory illnesses to go to hospital without financial anxiety. If a government-set subsidy system is introduced and utilized by local governments, it will provide financial relief to air pollution victims regardless of where they may live.”

In 2007, a damage lawsuit filed by Tokyo residents with air pollution-induced respiratory disorders reached a court-mediated settlement with all defendants (the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the national government, and the seven major carmakers). Following the settlement, the metropolitan government in cooperation with the central government and the seven car companies set up a separate system to provide subsidy to entitled asthma patients. However, the Tokyo government began experiencing difficulties in the continuation of the subsidy program soon after the state authority and seven car firms refused to provide additional funding in 2014. Resultantly, the metropolitan government decided to set limits on the coverage of the subsidy program.

Currently, there is almost no municipality implementing measures to ease the financial burdens of medical costs imposed on air pollution victims.

Later in the same day, air pollution victims and environmental activists gathered in front of the Environment Ministry building as well as in front of the Toyota Motor Tokyo head office to push them to accept the demand for a state subsidy.

Past related article:
> Pollution-induced disease patients call for continuation of free medical care [December 12, 2013]
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