Polluted with PFOA

Why I Report Using the Name “Daikin”

2023.03.30 14:19 Nanami Nakagawa

(Left) Chairman Noriyuki Inoue, (Right) President and CEO Masanori Togawa= From the official website of Daikin Industries, Ltd.

From January 31 to February 1, 2023,  newspapers and television companies reported extensively on PFAS contamination across the country. This was in response to a government expert meeting held on January 30 and a press conference by a citizens’ group. It was in November 2021 that I started reporting on PFOA, which is particularly toxic and persistent among PFAS. Daikin Industries, which brought the most serious pollution in the country to Osaka, is being pursued. Newspapers and television finally started reporting.

However, when I saw the report, I was stunned. They were reporting without mentioning the name “Daikin” which is the source of pollution.

The Asahi Shimbun, which reported on the front page of the morning edition of January 31, wrote, “It has been pointed out that factories and other facilities are sources of pollution,” but did not mention Daikin’s name at all.

On the same day, MBS (Mainichi Broadcasting System) news aired in the Kansai region, a reporter walked by Daikin’s Yodogawa Plant (Settsu City, Osaka Prefecture), the source of the pollution, and said, “The Yodo River is flowing over there. There is a nearby factory that used PFAS in the past,” she says, without mentioning the name “Daikin.” The exterior of the Yodogawa Plant was shown on video, but no signboards or logos recognizable as Daikin were shown. In the news program “news 23” broadcast on February 1, similar footage was aired.

The Tokyo Shimbun has started a project titled “Following PFAS,” but it does not seem to pursue Daikin. “We will introduce the movements of the national government, local governments, and residents regarding the problem of PFAS contamination originating from US military bases in Japan.”

Why don’t they mention Daikin’s name? The Osaka Prefectural Government, which has supervisory powers, acknowledges that Daikin is the source of the pollution. Daikin itself admitted that it was a source of contamination after I obtained confidential documents and interviewed executives. The document recorded that a large amount of PFOA had been discharged outside the Yodogawa Plant premises.

There are two possibilities.

One is the conflict of interest with Daikin. Daikin puts out a lot of advertisements on TV stations and newspapers. The financially troubled major media companies may be reluctant to criticize Daikin.

The other is that the fear of lawsuits and complaints is prevalent among reporters and executives working in media. Criticizing the US military bases and administration has a low risk of litigation, but that is not the case with companies. In the end, it seems that they are choosing someone who is easy to criticize and who does not pose a threat to your position within the company.

It is imperative that Daikin’s name is used in reporting. This is because it is necessary to clarify who is responsible. Japan has experienced serious pollution during its postwar economic development, such as Minamata disease and Itai-itai disease. Daikin should take seriously that it caused PFOA pollution in the 21st century, compensate the victims, and take measures to prevent a recurrence.

In the end, I believe it comes down to who you work for. I turn to the victims, not Daikin or my boss. I cannot leave behind people who have detected PFOA in their blood that is dozens of times higher than in non-contaminated areas, and people who, out of concern for the children in their area, made every effort to petition Daikin to take action.

I am currently working on the second part of this series. In Part 2, I announced that I would elaborate on a Japanese system that does not seem to put an end to pollution. It’s frustrating that newspapers and TV “covered up” Daikin’s name along the way. Breaking into the structure of pollution in Reiwa era in which not only companies but also the media are complicit.

(Originally published in Japanese on February 2, 2023. Translation by Mana Shibata.)

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