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Health & Chemicals

Report on the Evaluation of PRTR Pilot Project in Japan

1. Outline of the PRTR Pilot Project

(1) Design of the Pilot Project

The pilot project was designed with the objectives of verifying the overall PRTR process; solving various technical problems; deepening understanding of PRTRs among citizens, businesses, and administrative institutions in order to enhance common awareness of PRTRs; and building a basis for smooth implementation of a PRTR system in Japan.

In promoting the pilot project, the Environmental Agency of Japan established the PRTR Technical Advisory Committee to evaluate the overall design, implementation plan, and results of the project. Members of the Committee included academicians, industry representatives, and NGO members.

The pilot project was designed to give an overview of the various conditions in relation to the release and transfer of chemical substances. The project targeted three types of areas that differ in terms of industrial structure and land use, namely, industrial, transportation, and residential areas. The three districts chosen to take part in this project accounted for 7% of product shipments and 2.5% of population in Japan. The substances studied in this project were chosen taking into consideration the PRTRs in other countries and the regulatory conditions and production volumes in Japan. The project covered 178 chemical substances, which had been found potentially hazardous due to carcinogenicity, chronic toxicity by oral ingestion or inhalation, or ecotoxicity.

Survey forms were sent out to about 1,800 factories and business entities in the areas being studied. They were asked to report voluntarily the amounts of relevant substances they had released into the environment or transferred as waste during the 1996 fiscal year. With regard to releases from non-point sources, such as the spraying of pesticides, release of household chemicals, release during transfer by automobile and other sources, the Environment Agency compiled estimates using previously obtained statistics and results of a survey conducted for the pilot project. Releases and transfers from point and non-point sources were then summed up.

The following table gives an outline of the pilot project.

imgTable: Pilot Project Outline.

Target Areas Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture; Shonan District, Kanagawa Prefecture; and Mikawa District, Aichi Prefecture
Target Substances
(See Annex 1)
178 substances selected based on their carcinogenicity, chronic toxicity (oral, inhalation), and ecological toxicity in conjunction with production volumes and propensity for exposure (to be reported in mixtures only when the ratio is 1% or greater).
Target Businesses
(See Annex 2)
Manufacturing businesses and a few non-manufacturing businesses with employees of 30 or more for the former or 100 or more for the latter, totaling about 1800 businesses. [Note: only businesses handling target substances in the amount of 0.1 ton or more per year (10 tons in the case of low-toxicity substances) were included.]
Contents of Reports Released into the atmosphere, water, or soil, or transferred as waste, etc.
Contents of Estimations of Non-point Sources Environment Agency's estimates of pesticide spraying, transfer sources, and amounts released or transferred from households and small businesses.

(2) Pilot Project Implementation Outline

In order to ensure uniformity in methods of calculating and reporting amounts of releases and transfers from businesses, the PRTR Technical Advisory Committee drafted a "Release Calculation Manual" and distributed it together with the survey form to all businesses participating in the survey. In addition, informational meetings and training courses were held for the businesses in cooperation with local governments to deepen understanding of the pilot project. An electronic reporting system was distributed to interested participants. Hearings were held and questionnaires were distributed to target businesses to promote PRTRs. To facilitate implementation in Kanagawa and Aichi prefectures, Regional Promotion Committees were established with representatives from local governments, businesses, and local citizens.

The survey forms were distributed in September 1997 with responses due by December of that year. 52% of the target businesses sent in responses to the survey, and of these, 53% reported the amounts of target substances that they had released or transferred. Meanwhile, 68% of the target businesses responded to questions by filling out and sending in the questionnaire. Hearings were also conducted.

The total amounts of releases and transfers of target substances reported to and estimated in the pilot project were published on May 1, 1998 in the "PRTR Pilot Project Interim Report," together with an explanation of the PRTR system. The results were also released over the Internet. During the next two months until the end of June, the Environment Agency solicited opinions widely from citizens with regard to the design of the pilot project and ways to introduce PRTRs. In order to enable an exchange of opinions and to introduce the results of the pilot project directly to Japanese citizens, the Agency held seminars in seven places throughout Japan. Through these efforts, the Agency obtained nearly 600 opinions from businesses, citizens, NGOs, and others.

(3) Results of the Amounts of Chemical Substances Released or Transferred

Of the 178 target substances studied, only 96 (about half) were reported to have been released or transferred by businesses (point sources). When combined with information about other sources (non-point sources), the total comes to 134 substances (about 75% of the total target substances) that were reported or estimated. (There were no reports of the remaining 44 substances primarily because the areas studied were limited. If the survey had covered other parts of the country, most of the remaining substances would have likely been reported.)

imgTable: Number of Substances Reported or Estimated, by Source.

SourcePoint Source OnlyPoint and Non-pointNon-point Source OnlyNone Reported or EstimatedTotal

The total volume of target substances released was reported or estimated to be about 20,700 tons/year. The total volume released from point sources was about 15,800 tons/year. In terms of the medium of release, the atmosphere accounted for the overwhelming majority of the number of cases and the type of substances reported, giving a total volume of 15,400 tons/year (98% of the total volume of substances released). Releases to public waters came next at 333 tons/year, and a very small amount was released to soil at 0.6 tons/year. These chemical substances are first released into the environment, but spread beyond the environmental medium depending on their respective properties, go through complex routes and ultimately are absorbed by humans and wild flora and fauna.

Chemical substances for which large amounts were reported to have been released are xylenes (solvents, industrial raw materials, etc.), toluene (solvents, industrial raw materials, etc.), and dichloromethane (solvents, cleaning agents for metals, etc.), etc. It was found that these chemicals were being released from a wide variety of sources.

Results have also been tabulated with regard to the conditions of release by business category and by region. Some differences have been found in release characteristics according to business type and region. In addition, the results clarified the amounts of waste disposal and recycling, as well as the destination of waste disposed.

(4) Promoting and Disseminating the PRTR Pilot Project

Awareness-raising and education about PRTRs were considered essential elements in the process of implementing the pilot project. For this reason, the Environment Agency held international symposiums in November 1996 and July 1997 while making preparation for the pilot project in order to provide a forum for exchanging information on the international efforts for PRTRs.

Furthermore, when the Interim Report was issued, the Environment Agency produced explanatory materials and a pamphlet along with the report and sent them to the administrative bodies of all prefectures and major cities so that they would be available for reference at environmental offices and some public libraries. All materials were also posted on the Environment Agency's website. In addition, as mentioned above, seminars on "Risk Management of Chemicals and PRTRs" were held in seven cities nationwide to explain the results of the pilot project to the public. There have been nearly 20,000 visits to the Environment Agency's Web site during the course of the pilot project and the seminars were attended by a total of 2,000 people.

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