Protecting people and the ecosystem
from the adverse effects of chemicals


@The Environmental Health Department promotes comprehensive policy measures to prevent adverse effects on human health and the ecosystem caused by chemicals polluting the environment. The Department also works to ensure prompt and fair relief for those who have suffered from the effects of pollution.


¡Reducing the Risks of
@Chemicals to the Environment

œEnvironmental Issues Caused
@by Chemicals

@In today's society, we use tens of thousands of different chemicals in manufacturing and in our daily lives. Many chemicals are also unintentionally produced from incineration, for example. While these chemicals help maintain our current affluent economy and lifestyles, they can also pollute the environment, and cause environmental risks (expressed as hazard multiplied by exposure), adversely affecting human health and the ecosystem.

œSurveying Chemicals in the Environment
@In order to assess and manage the environmental risks of chemicals, it is necessary to track the chemicals in the environment. In order to do so, the Ministry of the Environment conducts systematic surveys on the chemicals in the environment. These surveys start with the development and improvement of analytical methods to measure new chemicals and extremely trace levels of chemicals, followed by the measurement of concentrations of a wide range of chemicals in the air, water, soil, and living organisms. At the same time, the ministry estimates geographical distributions of chemical concentrations using this measured data, and also undertakes a long-term storage project in order to save environmental samples for future use. To date, a total of about 800 different chemicals have been surveyed.@

œAssessing the Environmental Risk
@of Chemicals

@The Ministry of the Environment scientifically assesses the environmental risks of chemicals (called "environmental risk assessments"). Based on the results of these assessments, the ministry promotes policies to reduce the environmental risk as appropriate. The ministry also addresses the endocrine disrupting effects of chemicals based on the ExTEND 2005: "MOE' Perspectives on Endocrine Disrupting Effects".@

œImplementation of the Chemical
@Substances Control Law

@Based on the Chemical Substances Control Law, the government conducts prior evaluation of new chemicals which will be manufactured in or imported to Japan with regard to their degradability, bioaccumulation and adverse effect on human health and living organisms in the environment. There are about 400 new chemicals notified every year, and the government takes necessary regulation to them in accordance with the result of the prior evaluation.
As for assessment of existing chemicals that are manufactured or imported before the enforcement of the Law, the ministries promote the Japan Challenge Program in cooperation with the industrial sector. In the Program, the business sector collects voluntarily the safety information of existing chemicals, which is disseminated to the public by the government.

œInternational Trends
@in Chemicals Management

@International coordination is needed for the sound management of chemicals. The ministry supports such international co-ordination through, for example, the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) that aims at achieving the production and consumption of chemicals with minimal adverse effects by 2020. The ministry also cooperates internationally in the effort to eliminate or reduce the environmental releases of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as PCBs, DDT and dioxins. Its international cooperation also includes efforts to implement the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Convention which establishes a rule in international trade of hazardous substances, and the domestic implementation of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).



œThe Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR)
@Under the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) system, companies are required to estimate and register the amount of hazardous chemicals released to the environment and transferred outside as wastes. These data are then compiled and published by government authorities. JapanÕs PRTR system came into effect in FY2001. By making the PRTR data publicly available, the ministry provides specific information on chemical substances to the citizens, and urges companies to take voluntary measures to manage them. The data are also utilized as basic information for administrative measures.

œPromotion of Risk Communication
@The ministry promotes risk communication by which all parties such as citizens, industries and administrations share correct information on chemicals and their environmental risks, and communicate with each other. For instance, it prepares information, such as a Chemicals Fact Sheets, dispatches chemical advisors, holds meetings of the "Roundtable on Chemicals and the Environment," and holds international symposiums on endocrine disruption.



Emissions and Transfers of Top Three Substances by Source



¡Compensation for Health Damage from Pollution

œPrevention of and Compensation for Pollution-Related Health Damage
@During its decades of rapid economic growth, Japan experienced severe cases of pollution-related diseases, such as Minamata Disease, Itai-itai Disease and Yokkaichi Asthma. To give relief to people whose health is damaged as a result of environmental pollution, the ministry administers a program in which compensation is paid to pollution victims by the polluters, in accordance with the Pollution-Related Health Damage Compensation Law (or the Compensation Law, for short). At the same time, the government carries out projects aimed at early prevention of pollution-related health damage.

œMinamata Disease
@Minamata Disease was discovered around Minamata Bay in Kumamoto Prefecture in 1956 and around the Agano River in Niigata Prefecture in 1965. The condition, which affects the central nervous system, is caused by eating large amounts of fish and shellfish that have been polluted by methyl mercury discharged from chemical factories.
The corporations responsible for the pollution have paid compensation to the people certified to have suffered from the disease according to criteria based on the Compensation Law. After the political settlement to the issue in 1995, the national government and Kumamoto prefectural government jointly pledged to launch the comprehensive Minamata Disease medical care project and various other projects. In October 2004, Japanfs Supreme Court handed down a verdict on the Kansai Minamata Disease lawsuit, recognizing the responsibility of the national and prefectural governments in not preventing the spread of Minamata Disease. 2006 marks the 50th anniversary of the first officially confirmed case of Minamata Disease, and there will be even greater measures against Minamata Disease, including enhanced medical measures, support for victims of fetal Minamata Disease.


Seminar on the lessons and experience
of Minamata disease
(March 2005, Niigata)


¡Poison Gas Issues in Japan

@Recently, poison gas residue in a bomb and other material were found at Samukawa town and Hiratsuka city in Kanagawa prefecture. Organic arsenical compound pollution also occurred, possibly caused by abandoned poison gas, at Kamisu city in Ibaraki prefecture. In an effort to prevent damages caused by gas bombs and the like, the government conducted a nationwide survey and announced the results to the public in November 2003. A total of 138 gas bomb-related cases were reported. The Ministry of the Environment is working on each case according to the information obtained. The government as a whole is promoting the preventive measures on the damages caused by poison gas bomb etc. with the help of related local authorities and citizens. As a part of such efforts, the Poison Gas Information Center was established in December 2003.