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Press Release

Cabinet Decision on a Bill to Control the Emission of VOCs

March 8, 2004

The cabinet is expected to decide on a bill partially amending the Air Pollution Control Law on March 9, 2004. The bill is intended to prevent the air pollution from suspended particulate matter (SPM) and photochemical oxidant by controlling emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from factories.

<Outline of the bill>

This bill introduces, for the first time, the concept of "best policy mix" into the law, an appropriate combination of legal control and voluntary approach by business entities to have an effective emission control of VOCs.

The legal control targets facilities with large emission of VOCs, giving full consideration in enhancing business entities' voluntary approach. The following six types of facilities will be sorted out as those subjected to the legal control, based on the recommendations made by the Central Environment Council on February 3, 2004.

(i) Coating facilities and drying/ baking facilities
(ii) Drying facilities for manufacturing chemical products
(iii) Industrial cleansing facilities and drying facilities
(iv) Printing facilities and drying/glazing facilities
(v) VOCs (gasoline, etc.) storage facilities
(vi) Adhesive using facilities and drying/glazing facilities

As for designation of the VOCs emitting facilities (subjected to the legal control) and establishment of the emission standard, the Air Quality Management Committee of the Central Environment Council shall deliberate after promulgation of the amended Air Pollution Control Law.

The VOCs emitting facilities shall comply with the emission standards at outlet, and those who want to establish a VOCs emitting facility shall notify a prefectural government of the effect.

The amended law will come into effect within two years from the promulgation, on the date stipulated by a Cabinet ordinance.

<Background of the amendment>

There has still been remaining a serious trend in air pollution caused by suspended particulate matter (SPM) and photochemical oxidant.

* Suspended particulate matter (SPM)
  Achievement rates of the environment standard are 52.6% at ambient air pollution monitoring stations and 34.3% at roadside air pollution monitoring stations in FY 2002 (April 1, 2002 - March 31, 2003).

* Photochemical oxidant
  (i) Photochemical oxidant warnings were issued in 23 different prefectures totaling to 184 days in FY 2002, aggravated to the level of mid-1970s.
  (ii) The number of people claiming damages from photochemical oxidant was 1,347 in FY 2002. In recent years, over 1,000 people submit their damage reports in a year.

Photochemical oxidant is generated when mixture of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and VOCs is irradiated by ultraviolet ray. Strict controls were made thus far against NOx from factories and automobiles, because NOx, itself, is hazardous and causes photochemical oxidant. Considering the above air pollution caused by photochemical oxidant, further countermeasures are required.

As for SPM, the recent estimate of the Ministry of the Environment shows that approximately 10% of SPM is generated by VOCs from factories. Moreover, due to the fact that photochemical oxidant accelerates NOx and sulfur oxide (SOx) to form particles in the atmosphere, VOCs can be a contributing factor in SPM formation.

Since 1974, serial measures have been taken against automobile exhaust gas to control the emission of hydro carbon, a major component of VOCs. However, a nationwide control against VOCs from factories and business entities has yet to be made. Taking the reserve state of air pollution and accumulation of scientific knowledge into consideration, the necessity of VOCs emission control has become self-evident.

Note:    This bill was approved without any revision at the Diet and was promulgated on May 26, 2004.

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