The worsening air pollution in neighboring China is triggering higher-than-expected mercury levels atop Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji, a recent study claims.

According to research conducted in August with nonprofit group Valid Utilization of Mount Fuji Weather Station, levels as high as 2.8 nanograms of mercury in one cubic meter of air were detected around the top of the country’s highest peak.

That is nearly double the 1.0 to 1.5 nanograms of mercury found in pollution-free areas, but still below the 40 nanogram government threshold for posing health risks to humans.

The surging mercury levels at Mount Fuji are apparently caused by China’s rapid industrialization, the study revealed.

Osamu Nagafuchi, an environmental science professor at the University of Shiga Prefecture and lead scientist on the study, said Chinese factories burning coal, sending mercury and other toxic elements to the atmosphere, was the primary culprit.

“Whenever readings were high, winds were blowing from the continent (China),” Nagafuchi said.

The study focused on the scenic 3,776-meter peak, which attracts thousands of tourists every climbing season, because it is “unaffected by urban pollution,” added Nagafuchi.

China has been struggling to tackle its plummeting air quality. Smog enshrouded Beijing during the National Day holiday as tourists from across the country surged into the capital. Readings for PM 2.5 particles reached 430, above air-quality index levels of 400, according to air monitor at the US Embassy in Beijing.

Image: Sebra /