Act on Confirmation, etc. of Release Amounts of Specific Chemical Substances in the Environment and Promotion of Improvements to the Management Thereof (Japan’s “PRTR Act”)
The Act on Confirmation, etc. of Release Amounts of Specific Chemical Substances in the Environment and Promotion of Improvements to the Management Thereof (Hereafter “the PRTR Act” or “the Act”) was promulgated on July 13, 1999, to promote voluntary improvements of management of chemical substances by business operators handling chemical substances and preventing any impediments to the environmental preservation caused by chemical substances, by confirming the amounts of hazardous chemical substances released into the environment. Under this purpose, the government shall establish Chemical Substance Management Guidelines, and business operators shall manage chemical substances observing the Guidelines and provide information on their chemical management and related matters to promote the understanding of citizens about such management.
Under this Act, the following two systems are established and operated.
I. PRTR (Pollutant Release and Transfer Register) system
II. SDS (Safety Data Sheet) system
1. PRTR System
I-1. Outline of PRTR system
The PRTR system was originally started in the Netherlands in 1974 as a chemicals release inventory system, followed by the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) system in the United States in 1986. In 1996, the OECD Council recommended for its member countries to introduce the PRTR system. Accordingly, in 1999, Japan enacted the PRTR Act and introduced the PRTR system.
I-2. Objectives of PRTR system
The PRTR (Pollutant Release and Transfer Register) system is a system under which business operators are required to report the amounts of chemical substances imposing risks to human health or ecosystems released into the environment (air, water, and soil) and transferred outside the relevant place as part of waste.
I-3. Target substances and business operators
In Japan, a total of 462 chemical substances are regulated under the PRTR system as “Class I Designated Chemical Substances” with the exception of products that contain any target substance at a concentration below 1%, solid materials, products used in a sealed state, products for general consumers, and recyclable resources. In addition, business operators that are regulated under the PRTR system are those operating any of the designated 24 business types, those having 21 or more employees in total at all places of business, and those having one or more place of business handling 1 ton or more of Class I Designated Chemical Substance per year (0.5 tons or more for any Specific Class I Designated Chemical Substance).
Class I Designated Chemical Substances
A total of 462 substances are designated as Class I Designated Chemical Substances considering their hazards and potential exposure levels. The hazards are evaluated from the perspectives of human health, effects on the habitat and growth of animals and plants, and ozone layer depletion. Of these, 15 substances are designated as “Specific Class I Designated Chemical Substances” meaning substances recognized as either carcinogenic, mutagenic, or reproductive toxic. These include asbestos, ethylene oxide, cadmium and its compounds, hexavalent chromium, vinyl chloride, dioxin, etc.
List of Class I Designated Chemical Substances
Specific Class I Designated Chemical Substances
|Cadmium and its compounds
|Chloroethylene; vinyl chloride
|Arsenic and its inorganic compounds
|Beryllium and its compounds
Business operators that handle any product containing 1 or more mass percent of the above listed Class I Designated Chemical Substances (0.1 mass% or more for the Specific Class I Designated Chemical Substances) are required to report the amounts of such substances they annually handle and release at their place of business the government via the prefecture where they are located. The major target products include chemical agents, paints, and solvents. On the other hand, the following products are excluded from the reporting requirement.
- Products with a small content of the relevant chemical substances
- Solids (e.g., metal plates and cans) (Products in a powder or pellet form are excluded.)
- Products that are used in a sealed state (dry batteries and cells)
- Products for general consumers (household detergents, pesticides, etc.)
- Recyclable resources (scrap metal, discarded cans, etc.)
Target business types
The PRTR system covers 24 business types listed below:
- Metal mining
- Crude oil and natural gas mining
- Heat Supply
- Petroleum Wholesaling
- Steel scrap wholesaling (*)
- Automobile wholesaling (*)
- Fuel retailing
- Laundry services
- Photography services
- Automobile Maintenance
- Machinery Maintenance
- Product inspection
- Measurement and certification
- General waste treatment
- Industrial waste treatment
- Medical services
- Higher educational institute
- Research institute for natural sciences
(*) Limited to those handling target substances enclosed in automobile air conditioners.
Information to be reported
Information to be reported for each place of business
|Details of place of business
|Name of the business operator, name and location of the place of business, the number of regular employees at the place of business, and business type(s) operated at the place of business
･ Information to be reported for each Class I Designated Chemical Substance
|Details of chemical substance
|Name and PRTR number* of Class I Designated Chemical Substance (*a unique and serial number assigned for each of the 462 Class I Designated Chemical Substances in the Japanese syllabary order.)
|Amounts release into the air, release into public water areas, release into the soil at the relevant place of business, and landfill disposition at the relevant place of business
|Amount of transfer to sewage, amount of transfer to outside of the relevant place of business (waste)
Methods for calculating/confirming amounts of chemical substances released/transferred
Business operators can select one from the following five methods for calculating/confirming the amounts released/transferred.
- A method that uses material balance
- A method that uses actually measured values
- A method that uses emission factors
- A method that uses physical properties
- Any other method considered to provide appropriate calculation
A manual outlining specific calculation methods can be downloaded from the following webpage (*entirely in Japanese only).
The diagram below shows the entire workflow of the PRTR system.
The entire workflow of the PRTR system
(Source: Ministry of the Environment, https://www.env.go.jp/en/chemi/prtr/about/overview.html)
I-4. Implementation status of the PRTR scheme (fiscal year 2018)
A total of 391,000 tons (0.8% increase from the previous year) of target substances were released or transferred from approx. 34,000 places of business, of which 148,000 tons (2.6% decrease from the previous year) were released while 243,000 tons (3.1% increase from the previous year) were transferred. Of the total amount (391,000 tons), 378,000 tons (97%) were from manufacturing industry. Top ten substances among the reported releases and transfers accounted for 287,000 tons (73%) with the top five substances: toluene (22%), manganese and its compounds (16%), xylene (8.5%), chromium and trivalent chromium compounds (5.9%), and ethylbenzene (4.8%).
The trends in the total amount of reported released and transferred amounts during FY2003 to FY2019 are shown below.
Figure: Trends in the total of reported released and transferred amounts under the PRTR system
(Source: created by EnviX based on government data)
2. SDS System
II-1. Outline of SDS system
In 1992, the Agenda 21 adopted at the Earth Summit highlighted the importance of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs). Accordingly, the Japan Chemical Industry Association (JCIA) established and published guidelines on MSDSs. In the following year, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Ministry of Health, and Welfare and Ministry of Labor formulated and published public notifications on MSDSs. Then, the obligation of provision of MSDSs was formulated in the Industrial Safety and Health Act, the PRTR Act, and the Poisonous and Deleterious Substances Control Act, which were enacted in 2000, 20001 and 2001 respectively. In 2003, the United Nations formulated and issued the Globally Harmonized System (GHS) on product labeling and SDSs. In 2012, in Japan, the PRTR Act and the Industrial Safety and Health Act were revised accordingly.
II-2. Objectives of SDS system
The SDS system under the PRTR Act requires business operators transferring or supplying chemical substances stipulated by the PRTR Act or products containing such substances to other parties to 1) provide information on the properties and how to handle them and 2) make efforts to label their products in a way stipulated under the SDS system. The purpose of this system is to enable business operators to obtain necessary information on chemical products they handle by obtaining SDSs from suppliers and to use this information for proper management of the chemical products.
II-3. Substances covered under SDS system
The substances subject to the mandatory provision of SDSs are 462 Class I Designated Chemical Substances and 100 Class II Designated Chemical Substances. The following items are excluded from the scope: products that contain any target substance at a concentration below 1%, solid materials, products used in a sealed state, products for general consumers, and recyclable resources.
Class I Designated Chemical Substances
Class II Designated Chemical Substances
II-4. Business operators covered under SDS system
Under the SDS system, all business operators are regulated regardless the business types, business sizes, and amounts annually handled.
II-5. Items to be included in SDSs
In SDSs under the PRTR Act, 16 items (omitted here) specified by the relevant ministerial ordinance must be shown in Japanese. For indication of these 16 items, it is stipulated that business operators must make efforts to indicate them in conformity with JISZ7253.
II-6. Provision of SDSs
The SDS must be provided by the time the specified chemical substances or products containing any of the specified chemical substances at a specified content level are transferred or provided to other domestic business operators. If a need to change contents of a SDS arises, efforts shall be made to promptly provide a SDS with revised contents. As a general rule, the SDS shall be provided in written materials or magnetic disks.
II-7. Product labeling
The information to be included on product labels is specified by the ministerial ordinance, and in preparing such labels, efforts shall be made to indicate the information in a manner that conforms to JISZ7253.