Air Quality in Japan and America 

The below article talks about air quality in Japan and America, the factors that differentiate air quality levels in these two countries, the contributing elements, possible differences in attitudes towards climate ambition, action, and climate mitigation strategies, along with some frequently asked questions about air quality and its impact on everyday life. 

Which country has better air quality: Japan or America? 

Both countries, on average experience moderately polluted air quality levels for the larger parts of a year. However, specifically measuring air quality levels in different spots across both countries would show us that air quality across various cities in the US experiences far worse air quality than what is experienced by citizens in Japan. Though on average, both countries may produce the same levels of average air quality readings, it is quite obvious by the higher air quality readings in metropolitan areas in the US that the country faces much higher rates of air pollution than Japan. It is also to be noted that changes in air quality levels in the US can also be attributed to certain meteorological events including wildfires, which is one of the elements that affect Japan on a lesser scale, thus reducing the latter country’s vulnerability to poor air quality. 

Air Quality in Japan

As of February 12, 2022, the average readings for the air quality in the country reads at 40, in the standard US AQI scale. This shows that the air quality in the country is good, however, IQAir does state that the concentrations of particulate matter, particularly PM2.5 is twice higher than the official values recommended by the WHO (IQAir, 2022). 

Below is a list of the most polluted cities in Japan, in terms of poor air quality

Source: IQAir, February 12, 2022

#CityUS AQI
1Kasugacho, Hiroshima99
2Hikimizu, Kumamoto86
3Mizusawaku, Iwate86
4Mobira, Okayama86
5Uekimachi-mono, Kumamoto84
6Amagasaki, Hyogo82
7Maebaru-chuo, Fukuoka82
8Tamana, Kumamoto82
9Goichūonishi, Chiba78
10Konoshima, Okayama78

Below is a list of the cleanest cities in Japan with respect to their air qualities.

Source: IQAir, February 12, 2022

#CityUS AQI
1Azumacho, Aichi0
2Ninagawa, Toyama0
3Ogasawara, Tokyo0
4Okura, Chiba0
5Fukakusabata Yashikicho, Kyoto1
6Gifu, Gifu1
7Hirano, Chiba1
8Ishibashicho, Fukui1
9Kaibaracho Kaibara, Hyogo1
10Kakamigahara, Gifu1

According to the data provided above, the Kasugacho area in Hiroshima experiences the worst air quality levels in the country, whereas Azumacho in Aichi experiences the best air quality levels. Air quality levels started deteriorating in the country when the state government was encouraging the rapid development of the country, especially during the 1950s. Fossil fuels were used largely across the country for power generation and to support other industrial activities that made Japan the thriving economy that we know today. Pollution levels were drastically increasing in the country, leading to an increased number of citizens experiencing various health problems including respiratory issues, to the point where it came to be known as the Yokkaichi asthma. 

With citizens being more aware of the rampant pollution in the country, the state government started making efforts to address their concerns, and to improve overall health in Japan. There was an anti-pollution movement instigated in the country, that prompted citizens to engage in climate action and mitigation strategies. This also led to the enforcement of various environmental regulations including the Air Pollution Control Law. In the past years, while Japan has certainly made significant improvements and changes to its mitigation strategies, various studies have observed that pollution, especially those arising from automobiles and industrial activities are still at large. 

It has also been observed that air pollutants cross borders when supported by the weather conditions, due to which air pollution in the Asiatic region has been higher than most other regions, and it gets harder to pin point the source, or to figure out a way to ensure that these pollutants do not threaten citizens in other countries. It was eventually observed that Japan faces 3 main sources of air pollution, which are as follows: from vehicular emissions, from industrial activities, and those transmitted by cross-border movements. In light of the various circumstances that deteriorate Japanese air quality, the state government has been involved with several new frameworks that focus on holistic growth and development, in a manner that satisfies all stakeholders without comprising the integrity of the ecosystem. 

Air Quality in the United States of America 

As of February 12, 2022, the average readings for the air quality in the country reads at 40, in the standard US AQI scale. This shows that the air quality in the country is good, however, IQAir does state that the concentrations of particulate matter, particularly PM2.5 is 1.9 times higher than the official values recommended by the WHO (IQAir, 2022). 

Below is a list of the most polluted cities in the US, in terms of poor air quality

Source: IQAir, February 12, 2022

#CityUS AQI
1Niland, California176
2Avenal, California171
3Klamath, Oregon171
4Westwood, California166
5Lincoln, Montana159
6Los Molinos, California159
7Rice Lake, Wisconsin155
8Peaceful Valley, Washington153
9Lewistone, Maine152
10Athens, Tennessee147

Below is a list of the cleanest cities in the US with respect to their air qualities.

Source: IQAir, February 12, 2022

#CityUS AQI
1Agua Fria, New Mexico0
2Aguilar, Colorado0
3Amarillo, Texas0
4Anchor Point, Alaska0
5Aubrey, Texas0
6Basalt, Colorado0
7Bayside, Wisconsin0
8Belfair, Washington0
9Berlin, Massachusetts0
10Big Bend National Park, Texas0

According to the data provided above, it can be seen that the orst air quality in the US is experienced by citizens in California, whereas the best air quality is experienced in Agua Fria in New Mexico. Of the top 10 most air polluted cities in the US, 4 of them come from California, which would suggest that the highest amount of airborne contaminants possibly originate from this region. Air quality in the US is constantly changing, and there are various contributing factors, be it anthropologically introduced or otherwise. For example, the wildfires that ravaged the country in 2020 destroyed te area and decimated the air quality in California. Global climate change has increased the stakes of weather related changes in the country including increased incidences of wildfires amongst other natural disasters. 

While the US has taken tremendous steps to reduce air pollution in the country, the volume of emissions from the country do not match the capacity of the mitigation strategies enforced, due to which, even with the country being one of the most powerful countries in the world, it experiences poor environmental health. Air quality levels in the US has been of concern for many years now, and various bills, laws, regulations, etc. have been set forward, including the Clean Air Bill, enforcement of programs like the California smog check program, etc. amongst many other frameworks that have been introduced and enforced: partially or fully, over the years. 

The country’s race to become an economic supergiant has left its environmental health in tatters, and is of major concern to the citizens of the country, and to the rest of the world. The state government’s hesitate to agree to the Paris Climate Agreement, during the Trump reign, was an issue of major concern, especially when considering the fact that America is one of the largest polluters in the world. Even with the COVID-19 Pandemic, researchers observed a sudden improvement in air quality, which did not stay for long. Even with the reduced emissions from various sources during the worldwide lockdown, studies found out that pollutants emitted from previous dispersions were still present in the air, making it difficult to recognise the true impact of the lockdown on the air quality in the country. 

However, it is also to be noted that various cities in the country, including Los Angeles did not see any improvements to air quality even with the COVID-19 Pandemic. Other cities that experienced the same effect were those that were crucial to producing power for the country, or cities where industrial activities were still in play, regardless of the pandemic. It has been absundantly stated in the past few years that the poor air quality in the country has increased the risks ties to COVID-19, and in fact is one of the major reasons some people may face an aggravated form of the virus, as they already have weaker pulmonary systems. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Does Japan have better air quality than America?

What is the California Smog Check Program?

The smog check program introduced in 1984, is a vehicle inspection strategy aimed towards identifying largely polluting vehicles and to encourage citizens to take mitigatory measures with respect to vehicular emissions to produce cleaner air. The program helps to identify vehicles that cause major emissions, so that it can be repaired or retired to reduce the load on pollution caused by faulty vehicles. 

Is air quality better in the morning?

There is no definite answer to the question, as air quality in the mornings keeps varying from city to city and country to country, especially depending on where the air quality is being monitored, for example at the center of a city, in a rural area, etc. Anthropological activities in the area would be a more constant factor to check air quality. By intuition, it may feel cleaner due to the lower number of vehicles on the road or due to the fact that daily operations which cause emissions have not begun yet, but this may not always be the case. Therefore, it is always best to check your local air quality at all times to ensure informed decisions are being made. 

Other FAQs about Air quality that you may be interested in.

How is the air quality in Salt Lake City in Utah?

What are the current air quality levels in Sedona?

The difference between a primary and secondary source of air pollution

References 

IQAir. (2022, February 12). Air Quality in Japan. Air Quality Index (AQI) and PM2.5 air pollution in Japan. Viewed on 02-12-2022. https://www.iqair.com/us/japan 

IQAir. (2022, February 12). Real-time Japan  most polluted city ranking. Live AQI city ranking. Viewed on 02-12-2022. https://www.iqair.com/us/japan 

IQAir. (2022, February 12). Real-time Japan cleanest city ranking. Live AQI city ranking. Viewed on 02-12-2022. https://www.iqair.com/us/japan 

IQAir. (2022, February 12). Air Quality in USA. Air Quality Index (AQI) and PM2.5 air pollution in USA. Viewed on 02-12-2022. https://www.iqair.com/in-en/usa 

IQAir. (2022, February 12). Real-time USA cleanest city ranking. Live AQI city ranking. Viewed on 02-12-2022. https://www.iqair.com/in-en/usa

IQAir. (2022, February 12). Real-time USA most polluted city ranking. Live AQI city ranking. Viewed on 02-12-2022. https://www.iqair.com/in-en/usa

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