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September 2003

CLEAN AGE Summary


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No. 18 (August 2003)

Inside of this issue
1. Risk Assessment Conducted on Impact of Surfactants on Human Health and the Environment
2. "Japan's Most Polluted Lake" Finally Clears its Name? Efforts to Improve Water Quality in Lake Teganuma, Chiba Prefecture
3. How to Preserve Water Quality in Japan's Lakes: An Interview with Professor Ryuichi Sudo
4. Public Relations and Efforts to Provide Information to the Community - Report on the Activities of the JSDA Public Relations Committee


1. Risk Assessment Conducted on Impact of Surfactants on Human Health and the Environment

The Pollutant Release and Transfer Register Law (PRTR Law) was enacted in Japan in 1999 with the aim of preventing environmental damage by chemical substances and promoting the enhancement of self-management on the part of businesses handling chemical substances by ascertaining amounts of chemical substances discharged into the environment and other related matters.
A total of 435 chemical substances are designated in the PRTR Law, and substances used in the soap and detergent industry such as LAS, AE, AO and DHTDMAC are listed as Class I Designated Chemical Substances.
The reason these have been listed as Designated Chemical Substances is that the conditions for designation apply, namely, they are "used in everyday life in relatively large amounts, are discharged after use so are detectable at any time by measurement, and have an impact on aquatic life forms when discharged at levels in excess of a certain concentration." They are designated not because they have an impact on the health of humans and other mammals, but from the viewpoint of ecotoxicity to creatures such as fish and water fleas that live in water.
The Japan Soap and Detergent Association (JSDA) has conducted investigations over many years to determine if these surfactants actually exist in concentrations that have an impact and whether or not there is a risk of impact on places (environments) where aquatic life forms must be protected. These investigations have confirmed that these substances only exist in concentrations too low to have any impact.
In conjunction with the designations of the PRTR Law, we have now re-verified the data previously reported and conducted an assessment of the risks that the above four substances present to humans and ecosystems. The results have reconfirmed, among other things, that the amounts estimated to be ingested by humans are below tolerance daily intakes and that environmental concentrations are below levels that would have an impact on aquatic life forms.

2. "Japan's Most Polluted Lake" Finally Clears its Name? Efforts to Improve Water Quality in Lake Teganuma, Chiba Prefecture


[ Lake Teganuma ]

Regularly among the worst rankings
Long ago, Lakes Teganuma and Inbanuma in Chiba Prefecture were connected to the sea, but as the centuries passed, they gradually separated and remained as lakes. Year after year these lakes were among the worst rankings in surveys of lake water quality. Finally, in 1997, Lakes Teganuma and Inbanuma had the dishonor of achieving the very lowest two places. As a result, Chiba Prefecture renewed its efforts to deal with the problem and, while continuing various measures, actively tried out new initiatives.
Let's take a look at their efforts to improve water quality, focusing on Lake Teganuma.

Humans are the real cause of lake pollution
Water quality in Lake Teganuma deteriorated rapidly from 1975, and recorded an all-time low of COD27 (mg/L) in 1979. Although it gradually began to improve after that, annual average COD rose to 24 in 1995 before dropping back to 14 in 2000.
There were attempts to determine a precise cause or background for the changes in COD over the years in Lake Teganuma, but ultimately it was not possible to ascertain a clear-cut cause. However, the one thing we can say without difficulty is that the graph of changes in COD over the years probably reflects the battle between the negative factor of growing residential areas and population around the lake causing deterioration in water quality, and the positive factor of new sewerage systems and combined treatment tanks improving water quality and drainage.

[The changes in COD over the years in Lake Teganuma]

Ultimately the fundamental problem in water pollution is that humans pollute water and discharge it into rivers and lakes. This becomes clearer if we look at discharge loads by source.

Everyday wastewater is the biggest problem
In the case of Lake Teganuma, COD discharge load has been calculated at 4.4 tons per day. Broken down by source, household everyday wastewater accounts for 62%, natural wastewater from urban and agricultural areas accounts for 32%, and wastewater from factories accounts for 6%. This is an estimated load calculated on the basis of various data on land usage in areas surrounding the lake, population, etc.
No detailed breakdown is available for everyday wastewater, which has the biggest impact, but this category includes general household wastewater from kitchens, baths, laundry, toilets and so on. Therefore, if an area is equipped with public sewerage systems, these are all purified in the process of wastewater treatment, waste matter is finally processed, and clean water is discharged into the natural environment without problems. Although Chiba Prefecture's public sewerage system coverage rate of 58% is below the national average of 62%, if we consider only the specified area around Lake Teganuma the rate is around 73%, which is certainly not a low figure.
Nevertheless, the reason that Lake Teganuma had to suffer the dishonor of being "Japan's most polluted lake" for 27 years is that a considerable amount of everyday wastewater was not connected to sewerage systems.
The key factor was that, as a result of rapid urbanization, the natural and industrial load on the environment increased. When the slopes that had been covered in forests and woods became residential areas, factors that had reduced load began to increase it instead and maintaining a balance became impossible.

Water pumped from Tone River
In 2002, Lake Teganuma finally rose above the worst place in the water quality rankings. The measures taken by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport from 2000 are said to have had a large effect on this outcome. These involved taking water from the Tone River and pumping it through underground pipes 3.2 meters in diameter to Lake Teganuma, more than 10 kilometers away. Improving water quality was not the sole purpose of these works, but a total of 140 million tons of water was pumped into the lake in 2001, which resulted in a major contribution to cleaning up Lake Teganuma. Of course this was not the only factor, and various wastewater purification measures were also taken by Chiba Prefecture.

[ Water pumped from Tone River ]

[ promoting natural purification through the planting of vegetation in surrounding areas ]

Various efforts to remove phosphates
In Chiba Prefecture, two rivers run into Lake Teganuma, the Ohori River and the Otsu River, and each of these is equipped with water purification facilities to compensate for incomplete sewerage systems. These facilities dam the river temporarily to collect water, run it through a channel laid with plastic or gravel filtering material to remove suspended waste matter, clean it with a method that promotes breakdown of waste by bacteria, and return it to the river.
As eutrophication worsened and frequent outbreaks of algae became an internal source of pollution, countermeasures were taken to reduce the amount of phosphates flowing into the lake. Even though phosphates are not used in detergents, they are included in large amounts in everyday cooking and cleaning wastewater from kitchens, food particles, and fertilizers. The standard value for total phosphates in the environment is 0.1, but in Lake Teganuma it is 0.26. From 2000, phosphate removal facilities were set up in tributaries of the Otsu River from which large amounts of household wastewater are considered to flow.
These facilities, which are still unusual anywhere in Japan, remove 80% of phosphates by collecting pollution using polychlorinated aluminum coagulants and cleaning water with sand filters.
Other comprehensive measures are also being taken, such as works to collected fixed amounts of heavily polluted fresh rainwater and divert it to sewerage treatment plants, promotion of environmentally-friendly agriculture, placing priority on dredging sludge from the lakebed in stagnant areas in the western part, and promoting natural purification through the planting of vegetation in surrounding areas, and these initiatives are expected to gradually have greater effects.
Measures to reduce everyday wastewater must begin with education to raise awareness among individual residents. In Chiba Prefecture, public relations efforts are being made to remind residents, among other things, to use strainers in kitchen sinks, to bury kitchen waste, not to dispose of oil in sinks, to have septic tanks inspected, not to use disposal units, not to flush rice-rinsing water down sinks since this has a particularly large impact, and to use detergents in appropriate amounts.
In this area, there are still those who declare "we must change from detergents to soap" and adopt slogans like "stop using detergents containing phosphates," even though these have already been withdrawn from the general market. At the (prefectural) government level, however, there is a correct understanding that detergent use is not a direct cause of lake pollution.

[ dredging sludge from the lakebed in stagnant areas in the western part ]

3. How to Preserve Water Quality in Japan's Lakes: An Interview with Professor Ryuichi Sudo

Professor Ryuichi Sudo
President, Center for Environmental Science in Saitama
Visiting Professor, Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Saitama University
Visiting Professor, Tohoku Institute of Technology
Director, Institute of Ecological Engineering

JSDA recently conducted its fourth visit to Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, Lake Kasumigaura in Ibaraki Prefecture, Lake Kojima in Okayama Prefecture and Lake Teganuma in Chiba Prefecture to report on their water quality.
Now that local reports are completed, JSDA News spoke with Professor Ryuichi Sudo, active for many years in the Japan Society on Water Environment, to round off the reporting process.

Lakes designated as "not clean"
T
here are currently 10 lakes in Japan designated in the Ministry of Environment's Water Quality Conservation Plan. Four of those lakes were visited and reported on, but, as you know, except for Lake Teganuma we cannot say that their water quality has improved.
Even in Lake Teganuma, which has "improved," the COD, which at one time rose to a high of around 28mg/L, has only fallen slightly to its current level of about 13, so perhaps we can't really say it is clean. Strictly speaking, it can probably be said that we are not heading toward clean lakes in Japan, but rather heading in an unfavorable direction in terms of the overall water environment.
For designated lakes, prefectural governments have taken the lead in formulating water quality plans as well as setting goals and taking measures, while reviewing the plans every five years. They also use simulation models to calculate the extent to which water quality has improved. Water quality environmental standards (living environment) specify COD of 3mg/L for sources of water supply, but this actually requires quite a high level of effort to achieve, and each prefecture establishes plans and goals for improvement in accordance with its own circumstances, separately from the environmental standards. If they did not do this their goals would be unrealistic, but if we continue this way, the reality is that even these individual conservation goals will not be achieved.
Water quality plans set out specific measures by local governments for lakes in each region in a form that complies with the fundamental policy for the nation, so basically all areas are doing similar things. Each region has its own special characteristics, but they are not doing completely different things.

Difficult to get results from water quality conservations plans
Conservation plans actually include a variety of overall measures: dredging slime from lakebeds, planting vegetation at lakesides, taking initiatives to clean rivers that flow into lakes, setting up purification facilities, PR activities to remind householders to install strainers in sinks, and so on.
Although such measures - including large-scale civil engineering works - have been taken for a number of years, the expected results in terms of improved water quality have not appeared: why is this?
Broadly speaking, I believe there are two reasons.
If I may speak frankly, one reason is that some of the works conducted are not directly connected to improving water quality. The other is that planned works do not proceed according to schedule.

Technology is limited, participation of residents is the key
M
oreover, in terms of cleaning up lakes, clean-up efforts conducted to date have reached the limits of technology. For example, even if we talk about progress with sewage treatment, strict regulation of industrial wastewater, and reducing concentrations of nitrogen, phosphates and COD, we have already reached the limits. No matter how much we focus on extending existing measures on everyday and industrial wastewater, we can only reduce concentrations of pollution by small amounts.
Of course, in such a high-technology society as ours, we also need to seek new technologies. We may need new concepts to conduct effective conservation measures.
While technology is important, it is almost equally important for residents to participate in all aspects of activities. We can't emphasize just one of these factors, they are both equally important.
Water does not belong to a few scholars and technicians, nor of course does it belong to government authorities: it belongs to the people who live in the region. That's why we talk about "public use water bodies." It's important that the residents of the region in question participate as a whole in the conservation of the water environment.

Waterfronts where children can play
"Children should not play here:" At one time such signs were set up on waterfronts. Recently they seem to have gone, but if you go to lakesides, barbed wire and warning signs have been set up. In the past, people were sometimes isolated and distanced from waterfronts where they were polluted like this.
In fact, this was one of the biggest reasons for deterioration of water. Waterfronts are vitally linked with human life, as shown by the way people used to go to the river to do their washing in the old days. I don't mean that we should return to the past, but we have to return to that kind of environment, where rivers and lakes are directly linked with people's lives and all residents participate in water conservation.
People can't act selfishly for profit, tearing down forests and woods, covering the land with concrete and polluting the water. Residents must have the attitude that, even if it's a little inconvenient or economically unprofitable, there are some things we have to do to protect the environment.

Seeing the big picture
In fact, there have been few measures taken to date that involve participation by residents. When we think of resident participation, in any region the people who stand out are the ones who loudly proclaim "we should stop using synthetic detergents and switch to soap," but Saitama Prefecture held a series of town meetings and conducted a study group for about a year. As a result of their studies, they came to an agreement that it was not a case of "synthetic detergents bad, soap good," but that they both have good and bad points and each will place a load on the environment if overused, therefore the important thing is to try to use them in appropriate amounts.
In terms of preserving water quality, it is important for people to gain a broader understanding of the overall picture. The fact is that everyday and industrial wastewater has only a certain amount of impact on lakes. It is "plane sources" that have the greatest impact. The biggest issue is what we call "non-point sources." Rain falls on urban areas, and flows into rivers and lakes together with all kinds of pollution. Rain falls on fields and rice paddies and washes off about half of the fertilizer.

Putting lakes on a diet to cure the "lifestyle disease" of water pollution
I am often asked if there is any decisive way of preserving water quality. Unfortunately, there is no decisive method. Lakes and rivers need to be put on a diet. It is no good for them to overeat. Moreover, nutrients amassed in the past remain in wastewater pipes and on lakebeds, so even if we take urgent steps we cannot expect quick results.
Perhaps what we must do is have faith in the younger generation, change our ways of thinking to find new methods of attacking problems, and establish new technologies and menus of options for environmental conservation. This is certainly difficult, but in the end it comes back to us. Even if we set some unattainable goals, we have to keep up the challenge.

(End of interview)

[ Water gate of Lake Kojima ]

4. Public Relations and Efforts to Provide Information to the Community - Report on the Activities of the JSDA Public Relations Committee

In this issue, we report on the activities of the Public Relations Committee, which is one of JSDA's standing committees.


[ Language: Japanese only ]

Continuing grass-roots educational activities on product safety, etc.
The dispute over the safety of synthetic detergents, which had been going on in Japan since the early 1960s, finally came to a conclusion in 1983 when their safety was proven by the report compiled by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (as it was then) entitled "Toxicity of Detergents and its Evaluation." Around the same time, however, the phosphates contained in powder detergent for home laundry use in those days came to be seen as a problem. In response, the industry acted in a socially responsible way and proceeded to eliminate phosphates from detergents within a short time.
Against the background of this history, a section of the consumer movement in Japan still tends to treat detergent as an evil. Moreover, as interest in endocrine disrupters and chemical substances in general has increased recently, there has also been a tendency for some people to take the one-sided view that simply refraining from detergent use is good for the environment, while disregarding the load placed on the environment by the consumption of important resources such as water and electricity. Grass-roots efforts are essential in order to promote correct scientific understanding.
The Public Relations Committee works in cooperation with the Environmental Committee to communicate with the media and consumer groups. Committee members personally visit local governments, consumer centers and other interested groups for discussions to promote greater understanding of soap and detergent industry products and provide information on the safety and environmental compatibility of the raw materials used in them. The committee will strengthen its efforts not only to allay concerns about detergents, but also to proactively educate society about their usefulness and to broadly disseminate information on the environment and chemical substances in general.

Providing information using a variety of PR tools
The public relations magazine "Clean Age," which was first published in 1974, has reached its 193rd issue. It aims to be a concise and easy-to-understand publication, with editorial content focusing on basic knowledge and methods of use for soap, detergent and related products, as well as explanation of safety and environmental issues surrounding such products. Four times a year, 8,600 copies are distributed to government and media bodies, educational institutions and related industry groups.
In conjunction with JSDA's 50th anniversary, in October 2000 we set the objectives of making "Clean Age" available on the JSDA website and establishing a library of public relations documents. At present, information is updated regularly six times per year, including publication of "Clean Age" and notices about Clean Campaigns.
The Public Relations Committee is also involved in the publication of various other documents. "Soap and Detergent Q & A," which has been published since 1974, comments on everything from basic knowledge to safety issues and environmental impact. It is regularly revised and updated, and the most recent complete update was in March 2002. "Soap and Detergent in Everyday Life" is aimed at consumers, and is used as educational material in consumer study groups, etc.
Other publications include "Laws and Regulations Relating to Soap and Detergent," published in response to the revision of the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law and the enactment of various laws relating to waste products; the leaflet "Safety and Environmental Compatibility of Detergents;" and "An Outline of Household Use Products," which carries information on products made by JSDA members.

Clean Campaigns: Entrusting our dreams for the future
The Public Relations Committee is also responsible for "Clean Campaigns," public interest activities run by JSDA. These campaigns have been conducted since 1987 under the slogan, "Clean Japan, Clean Spirit."
From 1996 the award system, which had been aimed at adult groups, was changed to the "Earth Spic-and-Span Award" aimed at beautification activities involving elementary school students, making it a program to which we can entrust our dreams for the future. Furthermore, to encourage children to wash their hands with soap from a young age and get them into the important habit of cleanliness, stickers to be displayed in washrooms are distributed to 24,000 elementary schools nationwide. Since 2002, designs for these "Hand Wash Stickers" have been sought from elementary school and kindergarten pupils, and the best designs are used on the stickers.
Part of these Clean Campaigns is the "Clean Survey," a questionnaire on cleanliness. This fixed-point observation survey is conducted among 300 respondents every three years and asks about bathing, laundry, house cleaning, and hair washing habits.
The Public Relations committee wishes to continue strengthening its ties with related committees, to enhance consumer satisfaction, and to keep providing easy-to-understand information for consumers.


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