Japan on Tuesday unveiled a comprehensive policy package to tackle hay fever caused by pollen from cedar and cypress trees, aiming to halve emissions over the next 30 years.
As hay fever is estimated to affect more than 40 percent of the population, the government plans to reduce areas of planted cedar by around 20 percent over the next decade by cutting 70,000 hectares of the trees per year, compared with the current level of 50,000 hectares.
To reduce the impact of pollen allergens that trigger symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes mainly during the spring season, more than 90 percent of young cedar trees would be replaced in 10 years with species that release less pollen.
"It is necessary to maintain a strong focus on the issue and implement policies steadily as this is not something that can be solved overnight," Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at a ministerial meeting on hay fever held at his office on Tuesday.
The measures are expected to be incorporated into the annual economic policy blueprint, scheduled to be compiled in June.
In the area of medical treatment, Kishida's government committed to taking steps to increase annual production of immunotherapy medicines for the alleviation of allergy symptoms to ensure there is sufficient supply for 1 million people, compared with 250,000 at present.
Supercomputers and artificial intelligence will be utilized to improve the accuracy of pollen forecasts and information provision by the Japan Meteorological Agency will also be enhanced.
The government also pledged to encourage home builders to use more timber from domestic cedar trees and urged the business community to promote remote working to reduce pollen exposure.
A large number of cedar trees were planted during the period of rapid economic growth after the end of World War II for reforestation.
Although there is a lack of official data, a survey conducted by a group of ear, nose and throat specialists showed 42.5 percent of people suffered from hay fever in Japan in 2019, up from 29.8 percent in 2008 and 19.6 percent in 1998.