Polluted with PFOA

Minister of Health, Labor, and Welfare Kato, Ignorant of The Country’s No. 1 PFOA-Contaminated Area and President Biden’s Policy / Constitutional Democratic Party Politician, “Might Become The Second Minamata.”

2023.07.14 15:28 Nanami Nakagawa

On May 10, 2023, the House of Representatives Committee on Health, Labor, and Welfare discussed domestic PFAS contamination.

Tomoko Abe, a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, pointed out that Daikin Industries’ pollution in Settsu City, Osaka, was “a record high even from a global perspective, in the area around Daikin” and expressed concern about the effects on the human body. Abe is also a pediatrician.

Surprisingly, Health, Labor, and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato was not even aware that the nation’s highest level of PFOA pollution was occurring in Settsu, Osaka. In addition, he replied that he “didn’t know anything” regarding the US government’s serious efforts to combat PFAS pollution.

The Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare is in charge of people’s health. At Kato’s leisurely response, Rep. Abe said, “It’s ignorant, slow, and lacks a sense of crisis.” She showed concern that “It might become the second Minamata.”

Minister Kato’s ignorance (1) President Biden’s policy

The Diet debated PFAS contamination for about 35 minutes that day. The first item on the agenda was PFOA contamination in Settsu, Osaka, centered on the Daikin Yodogawa Plant. Materials handed out during the discussion quoted Tansa’s report.

First, Abe provided an outline of PFAS pollution in Japan and the rest of the world. Furthermore, she mentioned that DuPont, a major PFOA manufacturer on par with Daikin, caused health hazards due to PFOA contamination in the United States. In the States, she pointed out that the Biden administration has now formulated a “PFAS Strategy Roadmap” and is promoting national PFAS pollution countermeasures.

However, Minister Kato was unaware of the “PFAS Strategic Roadmap” released by the US government. He replied, “I don’t know anything about that,” and couldn’t even give an overview of the roadmap.

The film “Dark Waters,” which shows DuPont’s PFOA pollution, was released in Japan in 2021. In April of 2023, the NHK program “Close-up Gendai” aired a special feature on PFAS contamination, and introduced PFAS regulations not only in Japan but also in the United States and other countries. The government itself launched two councils to tackle PFAS contamination in January this year.

Despite this, the head of the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare is apparently unaware of the PFAS measures that the United States is promoting on a large scale. Moreover, Minister Kato’s ignorance did not end there.

Minister Kato’s ignorance (2)  The highest contamination area of PFOA in Japan

Abe shifted the discussion to PFOA contamination in Settsu, Osaka.

Daikin has been producing and using PFOA at its plant in Settsu, Osaka, since the 1960s. A considerable amount of PFOA has since been discharged outside the facility. Although PFOA manufacture and import got banned by law in 2021, highly persistent PFOA accumulates around the factory and is detected in high concentrations in the environment and in the blood of local residents as of now.

Abe cited a survey conducted by the Osaka prefectural government last year, which discovered 21,000 ng/L of PFOA in groundwater samples taken near the factory. The provisional guideline value set by the government is 50 ng/L. The groundwater in Settsu contained PFOA 420 times higher than the provisional value. Abe said, “It’s a record high even from a global perspective,” and asked Minister Kato, “Are you familiar with the situation in Settsu so far?”

Minister Kato replies, “I read it in newspaper reports, etc., but I am not sure whether it was Settsu City.”

“Ignorant, slow, and lacks a sense of crisis”

Minister Kato is oblivious to the contamination in Settsu. After that, Abe repeatedly questioned Minister Kato whether he was familiar with PFAS pollution in the Tama area of Tokyo and Okinawa. But he said, “I don’t know what area it was in,” and “I remember the reports being linked to a fire-extinguishing foam leak.”

Minister Kato was questioned, as were executives from the Ministry of the Environment and the Food Safety Commission of the Cabinet Office. None of them, however, provided an answer that addressed PFAS pollution.

Rep. Abe, who was unable to overlook the government’s series of responses, said,

“It’s ignorant, slow, and lacking a sense of crisis. I have a strong concern that it will become the second Minamata.”

From Katsunobu Kato’s official website

(Originally published in Japanese on May 10, 2023. Translation by Mana Shibata.)

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