Japan Soap and Detergent Association (JSDA)
home

March 2003

CLEAN AGE Summary


<prev next>

No. 17 (March 2003)

Inside of this issue
1. Launch of Environmental Health and Safety Sub-Committee
2. Is the Water Quality in Lake Kasumigaura Improving?
3. The Problem of Lake Kojima, where Sea was Turned into Rice Fields.
4. Results of the Survey on Implementation of Recycling Marks on Containers and Packaging


1. Launch of Environmental Health and Safety Sub-Committee

In April 2002 a new Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) Sub-Committee was set up under the auspices of the Japan Soap and Detergent Association (JSDA) Environmental Committee. JSDA News spoke to sub-committee chairman Dr. Koichi Yoshimura, of Kao Corporation, about the sub-committee's purpose and the activities it has planned..

■Why was the sub-committee established?

Many questions have been raised over the years about the effects of detergents on peoples' health and the environment. In terms of the human safety aspects, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (as it was then) published a report in 1983 that summarized the findings of a group of third-party academic experts who had been asked to assess the effects of detergents. The report, entitled "Toxicity of Detergents and its Evaluation," concluded that detergents presented no problems from a safety perspective when used under normal conditions.
The JSDA has always adopted the stance of looking into questions that are raised and carrying out investigations to resolve any issues that need to be addressed, but the circumstances surrounding the soap and detergent industry have gradually changed. For example, there have been changes in living environments, changes in detergent composition and standard usage amounts due to increasingly compact products, and changes in consumer attitudes and behavior, not to mention changes in the water environment such as a greater number of households connected to sewerage systems. At the global level, the safety of chemical substances has been reevaluated, and there have been proposals and activities aimed at appropriate management.
While taking these kinds of changes into account, the EH&S sub-committee strives to revalidate the safety of detergents. One of the features of this sub-committee is that its activities are voluntary. We are strengthening evaluation efforts from the risk assessment point of view, and plan to expand our activities to include commonplace ingredients not previously evaluated from that point of view.

■What are the global trends regarding chemical substances?

In recent years there has been a worldwide trend toward confirming safety of existing high production volume chemicals (HPV). In modern society, we use various chemical substances, and in some cases there are problems with the safety data relating to them. For example, the data may be insufficient, or existing data may not have been validated according to a fixed standard for evaluation.
In 1990, the OECD launched an HPV safety verification program to address this issue and each country proceeded to implement activities under the program. The safety of 5,200 chemical substances is to be verified under the scheme. The International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) has formulated its own program to promote these activities, which will verify the safety of 1,000 chemical substances by 2004.

■So safety is verified before chemical substances are used?

When they hear about the HPV activities described above, some people may be concerned that chemical substances are being used without their safety having been verified. At present there are few chemical substances being used in the world that have not undergone some form of safety verification. According to the usage of the substance concerned, some form of safety verification should have been carried out.
In the case of detergents, the safety of major ingredients has been thoroughly verified. This is not to say that the same level of verification has been applied to all of the ingredients used in detergents, for example the kinds of alkaline chemicals (such as carbonates) used as auxiliary ingredients. But the detergent as a whole (in other words the detergent product itself) has undergone many safety tests and the safety of such auxiliary ingredients has been verified as part of the mix. Moreover, most auxiliary ingredients used in detergents are things that have long been used in a variety of other household products and in industry, so this background also confirms their safety.

■What activities are undertaken voluntarily, rather than to comply with laws and regulations?

We base our activities on the view that the safety of chemical substances should not be verified just because this is required by law. Rather, companies that produce or use chemical substances should take the initiative in verifying their safety. Companies in the soap and detergent industry do not limit themselves to developing products that comply with laws regulating chemical substances. When carrying out verifications, each company considers the conditions under which consumers will use its products and the substances that will be discharged into the environment. Individual companies undertake these activities for each of their own products, but when it comes to questions of safety and risk assessment for detergents as a whole, I believe it is beneficial for all JSDA members and for society as a whole - including consumers - if we conduct safety examinations at the industry level. I hope this gives readers of JSDA News an understanding of the sub-committee's activities and I look forward to your support and cooperation.


2. Is the Water Quality in Lake Kasumigaura Improving?

■Shallow and broad, Kasumigaura is a "flat" lake

Long ago, Lake Kasumigaura in Ibaraki Prefecture was part of the sea. Factors such as natural sedimentation and changing coastlines led to Kasumigaura being surrounded by land, and it gradually became a freshwater lake. Occupying an area of 219.9 square kilometers, it is Japan's second largest lake after Lake Biwa. But it is very different from Lake Biwa, in that its average depth is 4 meters, with a maximum depth of only 7 meters. In other words, Kasumigaura is a broad, flat lake over its entire area, with a plate-type shape. Rainwater and wastewater flow into the lake from 56 rivers and streams. The catchment area is 2,157 square kilometers and has a population of approximately 970,000. Apart from its northwest edge, the lake is almost entirely surrounded by flat land, and this means that water flow is very slow. The average retention time (the number of days it takes for the water in the lake to be replaced) is said to be about 200 days. This has a major impact on the quality of the water in Lake Kasumigaura.

■Detergents containing phosphates were banned 20 years ago, but...

If we look back over history, we see that water pollution in Lake Kasumigaura worsened, and measures to address it became a major issue, around the same time that environmental pollution was becoming a problem all over Japan. In 1971 the Ibaraki prefectural government revised all of its pollution control ordinance. Moreover, it strengthened regulations governing factory outflows in 1981 by means of an ordinance to prevent eutrophication in Lake Kasumigaura and took other measures relating to household outflows, including a ban on the use of household synthetic detergents containing phosphates.
In response to these trends, the soap and detergent industry addressed the issue of detergents containing phosphates and developed non-phosphorous detergents from 1980. By 1985, the changeover to non-phosphorous synthetic detergents was virtually complete.

■...the road to improved water quality is still long and difficult.

Looking at changes over the years in Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), water quality in Lake Kasumigaura began to deteriorate in the late 1960s, and COD exceeded 10mg/L in 1978-79. Recently COD has been around the 8mg/L mark, but this is still far from environmental criteria for Lake Kasumigaura water quality set by the Ministry of the Environment (less than 3mg/L for water used as a source of water supply). In particular, COD in part of the catchment area has been more than 9mg/L in recent years and this reality means we are faced with new challenges.
When lakes and marshes become polluted, nitrogen and phosphate in the water flowing into them from surrounding areas encourage the growth of plankton, etc. and the water becomes cloudy. This phenomenon is called eutrophication, and records of the changes over the years in total nitrogen (T-N) in Lake Kasumigaura show that little improvement is occurring over the long term.
High total phosphate (T-P) rates, which were thought to be caused by detergents containing phosphates, have in fact tended to become higher over the years.
Every five years since 1986 the Ibaraki prefectural government has produced a "water conservation plan for Lake Kasumigaura and surrounding marshes" as a long-term scheme to comprehensively prevent eutrophication. In the third planning period, which finished in 2000, COD deteriorated once again and, although T-N has declined in recent years, T-P has increased since 1987 and ultimately water quality targets were not achieved.

■Countermeasures can't keep up with rapid population growth

The deterioration of water quality in Lake Kasumigaura has occurred against a background of rapid population growth in the surrounding area. During the 10 years from 1965, population moved in the 600,000 to 700,000 range, but by 1998 it had reached 970,000. This period saw new developments including Tsukuba Science City, oil-processing complexes and industrial parks both small and large. These were reflected in Ibaraki Prefecture's rate of population growth, which was two to three times the national average.
The greatest cause of water pollution is the everyday household wastewater produced by such large numbers of people.
Sewerage development is the primary measure for addressing this issue. Since sewerage development in the Kasumigaura catchment area began in 1975, 46 percent of households have been connected to the system and the target is to connect 53 percent by 2005. Progress is also being made with setting up advanced processing facilities to rid sewage of nitrogen and phosphate.

■Continuing efforts to achieve COD of 5mg/L

In 2001 the "water conservation plan for Lake Kasumigaura and surrounding marshes" entered its fourth planning period.
A wide range of measures are included in the plan: reed regeneration efforts such as those undertaken by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, planting and gathering of water hyacinths (which absorb nitrogen and phosphate) by Tsuchiura city, measures by Ibaraki prefectural government to reduce the use and inhibit the leaching of chemical fertilizers, reduction and appropriate administration of the amount of carp farmed in the lake, and catching of harmful exotic fish. Measures to be taken in respect of household wastewater are also set out in detail: for example, using up edible oils rather than discarding them, using fine-mesh strainers in sinks, and recovering waste oil.
The mid-term goal is to restore water quality to the level it was before pollution worsened (COD of 5mg/L).
Within the water recycling system, there is a balance between human lifestyles and nature and once that balance breaks down, enormous amounts of time, money and effort are required to restore it. The issues surrounding Kasumigaura have taught us important lessons about how to strike a balance between plentiful, convenient lifestyles and an environmentally responsible society.


3. The Problem of Lake Kojima, where Sea was Turned into Rice Fields.


Like Lake Kasumigaura described above and Lake Biwa discussed in JSDA News No. 16, Lake Kojima in Okayama Prefecture is a closed body of water that has been the target of comprehensive water conservation measures for almost 15 years.
In recent years, incidents of pollution caused by harmful substances such as cyanide and cadmium leaking into factory outflows have declined. However, organic pollution as measured by the Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and COD indexes has, as in the cases of Lake Biwa and Lake Kasumigaura, shown little visible improvement.

◆◆

Land reclamation work to create new rice fields in the area surrounding Kojima Bay began in the Edo period, and an extensive area of rice paddies came into being. These works continued in the Meiji and Showa periods and were completed in 1963.
Throughout its history, land reclamation has always been aimed at securing land for agriculture. Along the entire south side of the bay from Okayama to Kurashiki, the sea was shut out with embankments and water levels inside the embankments were regulated to create dry land for agriculture. Only a long, narrow portion of the bay remains, extending from east to west. The former western part of the bay, now called Lake Kojima, is cut off from the sea with embankments and used as a reservoir for regulating water for agricultural use.

◆◆◆

Water pollution worsened in Lake Kojima as a result of gradual urbanization on the reclaimed land surrounding it, and from around 1974 attention began to focus on eutrophication in closed water bodies. When ordinance for preservation of the Lake Kojima environment was established in 1991, the mistaken claim that detergents were polluting the environment was still prevalent in some circles. As a result, there were calls for the prefectural government to stipulate the use of environmentally friendly detergents or to impose a tax on detergents. In fact these measures did not eventuate, since the prefectural administration subsequently came to understand that the source of the pollution was not substances like detergents and that, while issues relating to water pollution were complex, sewerage systems offered the best measure for dealing with pollution.
Over the course of the period outlined above, little headway was made in improving water quality in Lake Kojima. After 1974 average COD levels remained in the 9 to 11 range. Although there was a slight decline to 8.2 in 2000, T-N remained in the 1.5 to 2.0 range and T-P in the 0.17 to 0.31 range. The causes of the low water quality were sought both in the river water flowing into the lake and in the lake water itself. The quality of water in the mid-stream and upstream river areas is generally in line with environmental standards, but declines in the areas of reclaimed land and in the lake itself. Once water passes the embankments and flows into the bay, the quality gradually improves.

◆◆◆

Lake Kojima is very shallow, with an average depth of just 2 meters. Although its depth is said to be 9 meters at the deepest point, no recent measurement data is available and in reality it seems to be shallower than this. Shallow waters have high temperatures, leading to rapid growth of phytoplankton and accumulation of silt, which are causes of pollution. For this reason, dredging works have continued since 1992. Making use of the different water levels in Lake Kojima and Kojima Bay, water is discharged through the embankments into the bay. When water levels rise in the bay, a 24-hour control system enables water flow to be shut off.

◆◆◆◆◆

In terms of COD, household wastewater accounts for about 49 percent of the pollutant load while natural sources account for 22 percent and industry for 16 percent. The ratio among these sources does not fluctuate greatly. Publicity materials have advised households in the region of steps to take with household wastewater, but sewage treatment is still the fundamental method of addressing the issue. The ratio of households connected to sewerage systems in Okayama Prefecture as a whole has not yet reached the national average of 62 percent, and in the Lake Kojima catchment area it is 50 percent. A positive effect on water quality can be expected when the figure exceeds the national average.
As a result of advanced sewage treatment methods, treated water in the catchment area is quite clean, with COD of 6mg/L. Efforts are being made to introduce advanced treatment methods in combined treatment tanks in order to prevent pollution by household wastewater.
Altering the natural landscape to turn ocean into rice fields was a major enterprise. Although we have set about learning the environmental lessons of this enterprise, we do not yet have all the answers and Lake Kojima will continue to cause concern for some time to come.


4. Results of the Survey on Implementation of Recycling Marks on Containers and Packaging

At the end of March 2002 the JSDA conducted a survey among 16 member companies to determine the status of recycling marks identifying containers and packaging as being made from plastic or paper, as well as those identifying the type of plastic material used.
Certain containers and packaging products made from materials including plastic, paper, steel and aluminum are required by law to indicate the material from which they are made, and the term "recycling marks" refers to such markings. The soap and detergent industry is obliged to mark containers and packaging made from plastic and paper.
The results of the survey show that recycling marks have been applied to 771 (76 percent) of the products on which they are required. The results also show that markings indicating the type of plastic material used have been included on 538 (80 percent) of the products on which they are required.
Manufacturers in Japan have been obliged to show markings identifying containers and packaging as plastic or paper since April 2001, when the Law for Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging Recycling Law was introduced.
The soap and detergent industry produced guidelines on recycling marks in October 2000 and has promoted the application of such marking. Compared to other industries, we set about producing guidelines at an early stage. Although markings indicating the type of plastic used in containers and packaging are applied on a voluntary basis by manufacturers, the soap and detergent industry is working to indicate the main types of plastic used in its containers and packaging.
The grace period for introducing recycling marks finishes at the end of March 2003, and we aim to complete this task as quickly as possible.


HomeJSDA NEWS topJapanese

Japan Soap and Detergent Association (JSDA)
3-13-11, Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku,Tokyo Japan 103-0027 FAX +81 (3) 3281 1870
Copyright(c) Japan Soap and Detergent Association 2000-2010 All Rights Reserved.