China China strengthens regulations on heavy metal pollution

Measures such as the designation of key regulated areas, substances and industries have been introduced

China strengthens regulations on heavy metal pollution

China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment on March 7 released its “opinions on strengthening regulations on heavy metal pollution”. The opinions require the designation of key regulated areas, substances and industries as well as classification-based discharge management of heavy metals while setting targets for 2025 and 2035. Heavy metal pollutant discharge is planned to be managed through the designation of key regulated substances, total discharge limits and the pollutant discharge permit system.

Key regulated substances

Lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, arsenic, thallium and antimony are designated as key regulated substances with total discharge limits imposed on five of them, namely lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and arsenic.

Key regulated industries

The following six industries are designated as key regulated industries: the mining and processing of certain non-ferrous metals (copper, lead, zinc, nickel, cobalt, tin, antinomy and mercury), the smelting of these non-ferrous metals, lead-acid battery manufacturing, electroplating, the manufacturing of certain chemical raw materials and chemical products ([poly]vinyl chloride production by calcium carbide method, chromium salt production and inorganic lead compound production from industrial solid waste) and leather processing.

Key regulated areas

Key regulated areas are designated based on heavy metal discharge intensity and the necessity of environmental improvement and environmental risk regulation. In each local government, key regulated substances and industries that are not listed in the ministry’s opinions are specified in accordance with their targets for ecological environment improvement and heavy metal pollution intensity.

Main targets

  • By 2025, reduce the discharge of the key heavy metal pollutants in the key industries by five percent from 2020 and enhance green development in the industries as well as the heavy metal environmental management capacity of the industries
  • By 2035, develop a system and a long-term framework for heavy metal pollution control and manage the environmental risks of heavy metals comprehensively and effectively

Classification-based discharge management of heavy metals

Total discharge limits are imposed on heavy metal pollutants and these pollutants are also managed through the pollutant discharge permit system. A permit must include the types, allowed concentrations and allowed amounts of the heavy metal pollutants discharged. If pollutant discharge standards or total discharge limits on key pollutants that are applied to key companies are changed, the authorities must update the corresponding items of the pollutant discharge permit in accordance with the law. The environmental management records of the pollutant permit, self-monitoring data and implementation reports of companies will become important reference materials for pollutant discharge management by 2025.


The full text of the ministry’s opinions (in simplified Chinese) is available at

Author / Responsibility

AOKI Kenji

Senior Consultant, EnviX Ltd.
General Director, E&H Consulting Co., Ltd.

Business Performance

Expertise in EHS (environment, health and safety) consulting in ASEAN region.
- Environmental regulations updating
- Chemical regulations consulting


MSc in Earth Science, The University of Tokyo

AOKI Kenji