Polluted with PFOA

Settsu City Authorities Posted Daikin Advertisements. Tansa Sent Out a Questionnaire to City Council Members (28)

2023.03.15 11:18 Nanami Nakagawa

In October 2022, it came to light that the citizens of Settsu City, Osaka were again exposed to high concentrations of PFOA.

In Settsu City, which recorded the highest concentration of PFOA in the country, citizens who felt uneasy were tested one after another, and high concentrations of exposure were found each time. This time, eight people underwent blood tests in September, and the analysis revealed high levels of PFOA in all of them.

However, Kazumasa Moriyama (78), the mayor of Settsu, is slow to act. Moreover, he protects Daikin Industries, the source of the pollution, saying, “Daikin would be in trouble, if we keep doing this.” The top page of the city’s website is still running Daikin’s ad as if nothing had happened.

What about the City Council? In March of 2022, the Council unanimously approved a written opinion requesting the government to deal with pollution.

However, after that, when I sent a questionnaire to all the City Council members, the answers that came back were not aligned.

From the official website of Settsu City. Advertisement of Daikin Industries is posted.

85% of subjects were highly exposed

On September 27, 2022, Kyoto University Professor Emeritus Akio Koizumi and associate professor Koji Harada conducted blood tests on eight Settsu citizens.

Koizumi is a pioneer of PFOA research in Japan. In 2002 he began a nationwide PFOA survey and found high levels of contamination in Settsu.

It was in 2008 that they began investigating the PFOA exposure of Settsu residents. A blood analysis using samples from 60 women revealed an average concentration 6.5 times higher than that of uncontaminated areas.

In 2020, according to the nationwide water environment survey conducted by the Ministry of the Environment, the groundwater in Settsu City recorded the highest concentration in the country. Taking this as an opportunity, Koizumi resumed blood tests of citizens. 85% of the citizens tested, including the eight, were found to be highly exposed.

Test Date Number of Settsu Citizens tested Result
July 10, 2020 1 High concentration
September 30, 2020 5 4 had high concentration
October 23, 2021 9 All of 9 had high concentration
June 5, 2022 11 7 had high concentration
September 27, 2022 8 8 had high concentration


The source of the pollution is Daikin’s Yodogawa Plant in Settsu City. Koizumi has found that out, and the Osaka Prefecture, which supervises the business site, has also acknowledged it.

Highly exposed citizens are angry.

Akira Ohno (pseudonym, 64) said, “What are they going to do with the PFOA that’s accumulated in my body? It’s really disgusting. Daikin hasn’t made it clear.” Masato Yoshii (pseudonym, 70) also said, “PFOA has already flowed outside the premises and accumulated. They have to first investigate and clean up the area outside the premises.”

Tsuneo Morita (pseudonym, 76) worries about local children.

“Even if they themselves are the source of pollution, Daikin pretends not to know. Even though there is an elementary school in front of the plant, they are only thinking about themselves.”

Is the Deputy Mayor an advocate for Daikin?

The day before eight citizens were tested on Sept. 27, PFOA contamination was a subject of discussion at the Settsu City Council. Koichiro Shimano of the Liberal Democratic Party asked, “How can we remove the residents’ concerns about PFOA?”

Deputy Mayor Yoshio Okumura responded.

“There is no established target value for PFOA concentration in the blood.”

“As times change and corporate operations become more active, various wastes are discharged from factories, causing changes in the environment. Daikin is fully aware of its social responsibility and is working on it.”

“The U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) completely abolished PFOA in 2015. Daikin voluntarily completely abolished it in Japan three years before that.”

“Daikin is working on measures to purify groundwater containing PFOA on the premises. It is doubling the amount of groundwater pumping and purifying.”

“Recently, Daikin has begun to enclose the entire perimeter of the factory premises with impermeable walls 10 meters below ground.”

After a series of responses, he said, “In this way, Daikin is taking all possible measures.”

I have communicated with Daikin executives and public relations personnel, and I got the feeling that Okumura spoke for Daikin’s excuses.

Few days later I called Okumura directly and asked him about it.

When I told him, “Mr. Okumura’s answer sounded like he was speaking for Daikin,” Okumura denied it saying, “it’s not like that.”

However, in reality, the city is not trying to force Daikin to compensate citizens based on the “Environmental Conservation Agreement” it has concluded with Daikin. Daikin has announced that it will start negotiations if the city makes a request. When asked about that point, Okumura replied.

“There is a Pollution Coordination Commission in the government. If it decides the amount of compensation, we can use that amount to request Daikin to negotiate compensation.”

“Citizens themselves have to appeal to the Pollution Coordination Commission though.”

In other words, the city will not seek compensation from Daikin based on the agreement, and if citizens want compensation, they should communicate directly with Daikin.

A City Council member responded with Daikin’s email address

I was not satisfied with the response of Deputy Mayor Okumura at the Council. What did Shimano, the Liberal Democratic Party councilor who asked the question at the assembly, think? During the legislative break, I called out to Shimano.

“The deputy mayor’s answer sounded like Daikin’s claim.”

However, Shimano objected.

“No, the deputy mayor is thinking in his own way.”

From Okumura’s answer, I couldn’t feel the slightest hint of that. Why would Shimano say such a thing?

I remembered a reply to a questionnaire to all City Council members that I received in August of 2022. To a question that asked whether the city should consult with Daikin, Shimano answered, “It is not appropriate to consult.” When asked if he would take action as a City Council member, he replied, “At this stage, I am not going to do anything.”

In addition to Shimano, there were lawmakers who were reluctant to deal with PFOA contamination.

Like Shimano, the LDP lawmakers’ answers suggested they were reluctant to act.

Yoshiharu Miyoshi, who was recommended by the Daikin Labor Union and is still a Daikin employee, sent a reply from his Daikin email address. The responses were, “I don’t think the city authorities should consult with Daikin” and “I won’t take action.”

All five members of Komei Party, the largest faction, did not even respond.

In March of 2022, the Settsu City Council unanimously approved a statement to the government regarding PFOA pollution. However, there was a difference of opinion as to whether or not lawmakers would actually tackle PFOA pollution.

Below are the questions and answers from each member.


(1) Do you think that the Settsu City authorities should negotiate with Daikin in order to realize compensation to residents by Daikin Industries based on the Environmental Conservation Agreement?


(2) Will you take action as a city council member in order to realize compensation for residents by Daikin Industries based on the Environmental Conservation Agreement?


(3) If you take action, what will you do?


(4) If you do not take action, what is the reason?

Below are the answers from all members.

【Answers from each member】

Name Faction Should Settsu City negotiate with Daikin? Will you take action? If so, what will you do?/If not, why not?
Tadashi Morinishi Independent No anwer No answer
Reiko Fukuzumi Komei No anwer No anwer
Masahiko Fujiura Komei No anwer No anwer
Hideaki Murakami Komei No anwer No anwer
Tsuyoshi Mizutani Komei No anwer No anwer
Naoji Minamino Komei “Refrain from answering” “Refrain from answering” “Refrain from answering”
Kaoru Ando JCP (Japanese Communist Party) I think we should discuss.

The Environmental Conservation Agreement was signed with Daikin in September 1977. At that time, various kinds of pollution occurred, and while the government was required to respond, Settsu City also enacted the Living Environment Ordinance. In March of the same year, during deliberations on the enactment of ordinances, the city official was asked how to deal with the situation in which pollution evaded the eyes of the law. He answered, “the city will conclude an environmental conservation agreement with the business operators for pollution that is not yet regulated, and by making them aware of certain obligations, they will be constrained in terms of operation.” Environmental conservation agreements are concluded in order to make business operators fulfill their responsibilities for pollution that is not regulated by laws and ordinances. According to Clause 2, Article 3, pollution control plans are to be drawn up and a memorandum of understanding is to be exchanged. Although PFOA was not included in the items of the memorandum at that time, Article 7 of the memorandum stipulates that if there is a need for new standards due to revisions to environmental standards, etc., discussions will be held with the business operator. Concerning the response to PFOA, a new type of pollution, based on the purport of the Environmental Conservation Agreement, which is to “protect the health of residents and conserve a good environment,” we believe that it is a duty of the city to discuss with Daikin, including “compensation for damage” in Article 15 of the agreement. (*In 1999, the “Living Environment Ordinance” was abolished with the enactment of the “Settsu City Ordinance Concerning Environmental Conservation and Creation.”)

Will take action. We will question the attitude of Settsu City through debates at the city council in cooperation with the National Assembly and the Prefectural Assembly. We will make a request to the mayor to discuss with Daikin as a city from the standpoint of the Environmental Conservation Agreement and Ordinance on Environmental Conservation and Creation. In addition, we will actively provide information, work with citizens’ movements to deliver the voices of the citizens to the city, and do our best to realize the wishes of the citizens.
Hiroshi Noguchi JCP
Yutaka Hiro JCP
Waki Masunaga JCP
Yoshiharu Miyoshi Independent, Daikin Workers Union I don’t think we should negotiate. This is because there are no regulations in the law. Will not take action. This is because there are no regulations in the law.
Tomomi Nishitani CDP (Constitutional Democratic Party) The official of the Environment Division should respond. The municipal officials should work together with Osaka Prefecture and the government to create an environment where people can live with peace of mind. I will listen to the petitions of the citizens and act swiftly on how the city council as a whole and Settsu City will compensate. In particular, I will interview citizens who live in areas that are said to be serious. We will appeal to the national government and Osaka Prefecture to conduct surveys, etc. on health damage.
Takashi Tsukamoto Osaka Restoration Association If the above matter (the content of the report presented by Tansa) is true, I think that Settsu City should start discussions with Daikin Industries regarding compensation to residents. If the above is true, will take action. Encourage the city to hold information sessions for residents, etc.
Koji Deguchi Osaka Restoration Association
Toshinori Miyoshi Osaka Restoration Association
Ryohei Kagawa Osaka Restoration Association
Akihiko Matsumoto LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) First, as stated in the questionnaire, “In response to this, Daikin’s Executive Officer Yoshiyuki Hiraga, General Manager Satoshi Komatsu, General Manager of the Chemicals Division, and Kiyoshi Abe, General Manager of the Public Relations Group, agreed on June 7, if requested by Settsu City, We have stated that we will start discussing compensation for residents based on the above.” When we confirmed with the city department in charge, we received a reply that there was no such fact. On September 20, 1977, Settsu City concluded an environmental conservation agreement with a total of 38 business operators, including Yodogawa Plant of Daikin Industries, Ltd., Enegate Co., Ltd., and Ashimori Industry Co., Ltd.’s Osaka Plant. (From the city document “Names and locations of business establishments with which we have concluded environmental conservation agreements, and the dates of each conclusion.”) In the memorandum with Daikin Industries, the agreement was reached after discussion on the detailed items necessary for the implementation of the agreement, which indicated standards for “nitrogen oxides”, “soot and dust”, “fluorine content”, etc. However, PFOA and PFOS (hereinafter referred to as PFOA, etc.) are not described. In addition, the agreement stipulates that “when pollution occurs and damages the health and property of residents, compensation for the damage shall be made in good faith.” However, no health damage is recognized nor there is a fact that the PFOA problem in Settsu City has been certified as “pollution” by the government or courts. Therefore, the basis for compensation is insufficient, and further clarification on PFOA is required before discussions on the agreement can be started. 

With regard to PFOA,  the city has been requesting the government through Osaka prefecture not only to set provisional target values for the entire water environment, but also to accumulate scientific knowledge about the impact on human health (including soil and agricultural products) at an early stage, and the creation of survey research and guidelines. This has been taken up in the City Council. It is also important to note that rumors with unfounded grounds and ambiguous information are causing reputational damage in the region, as the city has answered in the assembly. We must avoid causing double damage to the local people by pushing forward with unclear information. Based on the above, I believe that now is not the time to discuss compensation. To reiterate, the situation is that government guidelines, etc. (effects on health, soil, and crops) on PFOA, etc., which serve as the basis for compensation, should first be created.

As I answered in question 1, now is not the time to discuss compensation. First of all, it is important for the city council to continue to work to urge the government, through Osaka Prefecture, etc., to investigate the impact of PFOA on human health, etc. and to create guidelines as soon as possible. We believe that as a result it will lead smoothly to the next response. As per the answer to question 1.
Hiroyuki Mitsuyoshi LDP First of all, as a recognition, the “Environmental Conservation Agreement” is intended to protect the health of residents and create a good environment, taking into consideration the current and future trends of air pollution, water pollution, noise, vibration, and odors in the Settsu City area. In the 1970s, when pollution became a major social problem, there was no law to regulate the substances that caused it. Settsu City and business operators in the city have agreed to conclude “Environmental Conservation Agreements” one by one, and have concluded agreements with 57 companies at present.

The description regarding compensation in Article 15 of this “Environmental Conservation Agreement” states:

”When pollution occurs as a result of the activities of the business operator and affects the health and property of the residents, the business operator shall compensate for the damage in good faith.”

As far as I can see from this agreement, I think that one of the points is whether this case can be regarded as “pollution”. However, I understand that there is no fact that PFOA contamination has been recognized as “pollution” at this moment.

In May 2020, PFOA was designated as a monitoring item related to water pollution as a standard for public water areas.  As a provisional target value (guideline value) for rivers and groundwater, the total value of PFOA and PFOS is 50 ng/l or less.

Regarding drinking water, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has positioned PFOA and PFOS as water quality management target setting items since April 2020. Regarding drinking water, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has positioned PFOA and PFOS as water quality management target setting items since April 2020. The provisional target value is 50 ng/l or less for the total of PFOA and PFOS, similar to the above-mentioned public water bodies.

In addition, regarding the tap water supplied by Settsu City, the city is regularly measuring the concentration of PFOA and PFOS, and my understanding is that the value exceeding the provisional target value has not been detected. Regarding the effects on human health, although knowledge is being accumulated in various countries and institutions, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified it as 2B (possibly carcinogenic to humans). However, it cannot be said that the knowledge is sufficient at the moment, and there is no international evaluation or evaluation by major international evaluation organizations. On the other hand, at present, there are no standards such as guideline values for soil and food (rice, vegetables, etc.), and there are only provisional target values for the entire water environment. Thus, Settsu City has asked the government and Osaka Prefecture to quickly accumulate scientific knowledge on the impact on human health and research and development of guidelines. In addition, according to the questionnaire, Daikin Industries is said to have stated on June 7, “If there is a request from Settsu City, we will begin discussions on compensation to residents based on the agreement.” When I checked the facts with the department in charge of Settsu City, they told me that there was no such fact. As of August 3, 2022, considering these circumstances, regarding the compensation in question, I believe that it is difficult to quantitatively clarify the impact on property caused by PFOA contamination at this time. When the standard values and impacts on soil and plants are clarified and the legal basis for compensation is established, I believe that it is necessary to make concrete efforts in accordance with the law.

As mentioned above (answer to Question 1), at present, the standard for PFOA drinking water and public water is only a provisional target value, is not established by law, and there is no international assessment of impacts on human health. In addition, there are no standards such as guideline values for soil and food. Since Settsu City has asked the government and Osaka Prefecture to quickly accumulate scientific knowledge on the impact on human health and research and development of guidelines. Therefore, instead of taking action at this time, it is important for the city council to pay close attention to the trends of the government and Osaka Prefecture, which has jurisdiction over regulatory guidance, and to encourage early realization. Therefore, I think that we should take action when the legislation that serves as the basis for compensation is established. As mentioned earlier (answers to questions 1 and 2), Settsu City has asked the government and Osaka Prefecture to quickly accumulate scientific knowledge on the impact on human health and research and development of guidelines. Therefore, instead of taking action at this time, it is important for the city council to pay close attention to the trends of the government and Osaka Prefecture, which has jurisdiction over regulatory guidance, and to encourage early realization. Therefore, I think that we should take action when the legislation that serves as the basis for compensation is established.
Koichiro Shimano LDP Since PFOA is not included in the Environmental Conservation Agreement concluded between Daikin Industries and the city, it is not appropriate to discuss compensation based on this agreement. In addition, the regulations on PFOA indicate provisional target values for water quality, but have not yet indicated clear standard values or target values for soil and health hazards. It is questionable whether it can be recognized as “pollution” in this situation. Regarding the detection of high concentrations of PFOA in the waterways of the area, I believe that compensation to residents will be considered when the survey progresses and standards other than water quality are clearly set since Daikin Industries acknowledges the cause. However, at this stage, I have no intention of appealing to the company in any way. At present, Settsu City is requesting Osaka Prefecture to conduct a survey on PFOA residual levels in agricultural products harvested from the farmland in the area, and the chairman will represent the assembly and ask the government to proceed with the survey. I believe that it is the role of the City Council to encourage such actions.


To be continued.

(Originally published in Japanese on October 7, 2022. Translation by Mana Shibata.)

Polluted with PFOA: All articles