Sapporo's city center looks hazy amid yellow dust in this photo taken from the T38 observatory of JR Tower in the city's Chuo Ward on April 12, 2023. (Mainichi/Taichi Kaizuka)

TOKYO -- Yellow dust originating from mainland China is known as a cause of air pollution in Japan. The Mainichi Shimbun examined how it affects people's health based on environment ministry material.

Japan's Ministry of the Environment issued a pamphlet titled "Yellow dust and its impact on health" in March 2019. It compiles research findings from in and outside Japan. According to the pamphlet, yellow dust can trigger allergy symptoms, such as itchy eyes, conjunctivitis, runny noses and sneezing. As yellow dust is often observed during the same time as cedar pollen, hay fever patients also apparently need to stay on their guard.

The environment ministry is especially calling for patients with health problems in their respiratory and circulatory organs to stay alert. Individuals with bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are reportedly at risk of increased doctor visits and hospitalizations due to worsening symptoms. An adult patient with asthma may see a deterioration of their upper and lower airways, as well as skin symptoms.

Furthermore, it has been reported that yellow dust is related to an increase in circulatory organ illnesses, such as strokes and heart infarctions.

Children and elderly people should also be careful. Cases have been confirmed where children's breathing functions deteriorate, while elderly people, as well as people who have had diabetes or chronic kidney trouble in the past, are said to have a high risk of developing circulatory system illnesses.

Other people can be affected and show symptoms, such as increased coughing, and should beware of a rise in hospitalizations and deaths due to pneumonia.

Refrain from non-urgent outings, minimize ventilation

So, how can such adverse health effects be prevented?

The environment ministry advises people to refrain from non-essential, non-urgent outings when yellow dust is being observed. It also calls for people to avoid exercising outdoors for long hours, such as running marathons.

This April 13, 2023, photo taken in the city of Nagoya's Chikusa Ward shows the city hazy amid yellow dust. (Mainichi/Koji Hyodo)

Wearing a mask is also effective, if appropriate types are used. While medical and industrial-type masks, which are highly effective in blocking fine particles, can drastically decrease the inhalation of yellow dust and particulate matter known as PM2.5, they can also lead to people feeling like they are suffocating, so are not suitable for many hours of use.

In addition, using an air purifier that is confirmed to be effective in removing yellow dust and PM2.5 while keeping ventilation to a minimum is expected to reduce the inhalation of yellow dust.

The Japan Meteorological Agency shows a yellow dust forecast map on its website (, while the environment ministry's yellow dust concentration levels map are shown here (


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