1. The Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) Law and Surfactant Risk Evaluation
|The following is an overview of Japan's PRTR Law, was enacted in 2001, as well as the management and risk evaluation methods for the four types of surfactants, relevant to the soap and detergent industry, covered by the law.
■ What is the PRTR Law?
The law covers chemical substance emission volumes into the environment and is based upon global chemical management policy. It is intended to prevent environmental protection issues before they occur by providing information and promoting voluntary improvements by businesses in the management of such emissions. The main characteristic of the PRTR Law is that it differs from previous such laws in that it promotes voluntary improvement measures on the part of businesses and the like and is expected to raise awareness across a broad sector of the public.
The law is regarded to be an unusually wide-ranging law for Japan.
■ Why the PRTR Law was introduced
It goes without saying that managing and handling chemical substances requires close attention. Even a minor mistake may result in damage to human health or the environment. However, in actuality, there has been a lack of even basic knowledge about what chemical substances are used where, in what quantities, and how.
In 1984 there was an explosion at a pesticide plant in India, and following that there was a leak at a US chemical plant. These incidents provided the international momentum to better understand the growing use of chemical substances. Agenda 21, which was adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit, raised awareness of ''environmentally sound management of toxic chemicals.'' In 1996, the OECD recommended that member countries introduce the PRTR.
Since then, there has been international agreement to conduct various studies on the handling chemical substances. Many countries have introduced new systems; Japan's PRTR is one of these.
■ What are designated chemical substances?
First of all, the PRTR Law identifies chemical substances that are recognized as presenting a constant threat of harm in terms of human and environmental impact. The law designates 354 chemical substances as Class I Designated Chemical Substances, which have an annual production and import volume of 100 tons or more and are widely present in the environment. There are 81 Class II Designated Chemical Substances. These are not as prevalent, with annual production and import volumes of one ton or more. It will be necessary in the future to measure the volume of Class II substances emitted.
The law designates chemical substances on the basis of their threat of harming human health, degrading plant and animal habitats and growth, and damaging human health by destroying the ozone layer.
■ What will be the obligations of businesses?
This law pertains to certain businesses among those that regularly manufacture the designated chemical substances and use them as raw materials.
Each workplace must monitor chemical substance emissions volume as well as volumes found in waste disposed and report this information to the national authorities via their regional governments every year.
There are three types of emissions: 1) transpiration into the air; 2) penetration into landfills or soil; and 3) runoff into water.
Displacement includes effluents into sewerage systems and dumped waste.
Goods shipped as finished products need not be reported. The government treats these separately and estimates their volume independently.
■ Why are there four designated surfactants?
The four types of designated surfactants in the Class I Designated Chemical Substances are LAS, AE, DHTDMAC, and AO.
The substances have been designated because their production volumes are large and they have been detected in some rivers and streams. Volumes above a specified level may impact fish species and algae, as well as other forms of aquatic life. Surfactants are treated in sewage treatment facilities, but are also biodegraded in rivers and streams. These are not considered with the designation.
■ What are 'hazards' and 'risks'?
The PRTR Law covers many designated chemical substances. These substances are determined based upon the degree of concentration and impact on humans and the environment. The four of surfactants' hazards are their impact on aquatic life such as fish and algae, rather than on humans. As there are many criteria used to determine the substances, solely using the term 'harmful effects' may give rise to misunderstanding.
All substances could cause damage, depending on how they are used. The substance's potential for harm is called 'hazard,' and the probability of it causing undesirable effects on humans and/or the environment is called 'risk.' Confusing 'hazard' with 'risk' may give rise to misunderstandings.
■ Chemical Substance Risk Evaluation
Risk evaluation estimates exposure through the volume of chemical substances in the environment as well as how much is absorbed by people with product use. Risk Assessment is the determination of the present impact based on comparing the amount of exposure with an amount that does not harm people's safety or living things.
First, we must first determine what hazards are presented by that particular chemical substance, and then confirm what amount actually causes damage. We can calculate exposure with a simulation model using emissions volume of that particular substance and by means of a monitoring survey in the field.
Next, we will discuss the publicly-disclosed figures for the four types of surfactants as well as the risk evaluation methods that serve as an index for determining if they have an impact on the environment and their results.
■ The significance of publicly-disclosed emissions volume and displacement
Emissions and displacement volume figures of designated chemical substances are reported by businesses and combined with independent Government estimates of unreported emission and sewage dispersion volume figures and reported annually. The amount of Class I Designated Chemical Substance (354 types) emissions and dispersions totaled 1,096,000 tons (2002, all figures hereafter also 2002). This was a decrease of 13,000 tons from 2001. Volatile solvents such as Toluene, Xylene, and Methylene chloride were among the top Class I substances. Figure 1 summarizes the Class I Designated Chemical Substances overall and four types of surfactants.
Figure 2 explains the four types of surfactants in greater detail. Only two years' of data is included; more data is necessary in order to sufficiently discuss the significance of the various figures.
We see from Table 1 that: (1) of the 354 types of Designated Chemical Substances, many are unreported, and a total of approximately 880,000 tons of emissions are released every year; and (2) surfactants account for 43,000 tons of this sum, and most of that volume is unreported. Further, we see from Table 2 that: (1) the amount of surfactants released by reporting businesses themselves is limited, and (2) unreported household product emissions are significant.
Table 2 shows the amount of effluents that are not disposed of in public sewerage facilities but are emitted into the environment. In 2001, sewerage facilities in Japan reached approximately 74% of the populace. Therefore, the amount emitted into the environment covers the remaining 26% not treated in public sewerage facilities. The volume treated in sewerage facilities is shown as a reference number in the Figure. The four types of surfactants have a good treatment rate in sewerage facilities, as we confirmed that more than 99% of surfactants are treated in such a manner.
Of the four type of surfactants emitted into the environment, 34,600 tons originate with household detergents.
The important point is to identify how future surfactant emissions will change in the environment and how they affect the ecosystem. The JSDA has conducted a number of surveys and has been able to show that detergents are sufficiently broken down in the environment with a self-purifying effect and do not have a negative impact on the ecosystem. With the enactment of the PRTR Law, the JSDA has once again recognized the necessity of confirming the safety of chemical substances using the risk evaluation method, and has continued to conduct its surveys.
■ The meaning of risk evaluation
Surfactant risk evaluation determines the possibility of surfactants such as LAS and AE that are released into the environment having an effect on people and the water environment. Risk is normally determined using the model below.
Risk = Hazard x Amount of exposure
The Hazard Quotient (HQ) is one method of evaluating risk. If the HQ is less than 1, the risk is low and there is little need for concern about the impact on people's safety. If the HQ is greater than 1, risk is determined to be significant, and it is necessary to both analyze such risk in detail and determine safeguards.
We examine the environmental impact by conducting tests such as an acute/chronic toxicity test and life cycle tests using the main living things in the ecosystem (algae, daphnia, fish, etc.). Depending on the circumstances, we also use an artificially-constructed ecosystem with natural conditions in order to mimic actual environmental conditions as closely as possible. These tests help us determine the Predicted No-Effect Concentration (PNEC), a level below which will not result in toxicity. We then seek the Predicted Environment Concentration (PEC) using environmental monitoring surveys to measure actual concentrations in the environment. If the PEC/PNEC ratio is smaller than 1, the risk is smaller and there is less concern regarding environmental safety.
■ Results of the JSDA Risk Evaluation
Table 3 shows the results of the JSDA risk evaluation survey for each of the four types of surfactants
As the HQ for LAS is 0.097＜1, we conclude that the risk of impact on human health from the four surfactants is low. Surfactant environmental concentration using the PEC/PNEC ratio for water environments is even lower than with the PNEC (a more stringent standard), and with long-term exposure the risk to ecosystems such as daphnia and algae is extremely limited.
The PRTR Law was enacted to regulate the proper handling of chemical substances and control the release of unnecessary emissions into the environment.
It is important to identify how chemical substances are used and managed, and therefore ensure that they do not have a negative effect on people or the environment.
The JSDA will continue to strive harder so that consumers will be able to use its products with peace of mind.
2. From the 47th Clean Survey
|The theme of our 47th Clean Survey (April 2004) was 'Handwashing/Gargling and Disinfection.'
First, we present the results of the Handwashing Survey.
We surveyed 100 women in their 20's and 30's in the Tokyo area, 50 homemakers with children and 50 women without children (including unmarried women).
● Changes in awareness and practices with infectious disease incidents
Japan has faced occurrences of O-157, SARS, bird flu, flu, and other infectious diseases over the past several years. Has awareness regarding sanitation changed in light of this? The rates for both women without children (54%) and homemakers with children (76%) responding either I've become aware or I've become somewhat aware grew. It appears that this has resulted in homemakers with children reporting extremely high rates of awareness.
Further, even after the infectious disease problems became hot topics, it appears that there were changes in peoples' daily lifestyles and hygienic practices. Forty-eight percent of women without children responded their practices had changed, while the rate for homemakers with children rose to 76%.
So what in particular has changed? Homemakers with children reported washing hands carefully and gargling most often, followed by watching humidity levels with humidifiers. Women without children reported collecting information on hygiene and stopping buying certain foods most. So women are not only more aware, they are also acting on their awareness.
● High Rate of Medicated Soap Usage
Next, we asked how people are actually washing their hands.
We learned that more women use medicated hand soap when washing their hands. Sixty-eight percent of homemakers with children report washing their hands using medicated hand soap when returning home, while 44% of women without children report using medicated hand soap. Further, 58% of homemakers with children say they wash their hands before food preparation, while 42% of women without children do so. Finally, 50% of homemakers with children and 34% of women without children report using medicated hand soap to wash their hands before eating at home.
● Times of handwashing awareness
Respondents have a strong tendency to be more aware of washing their hands with soap or hand soap based on the information they receive, such as when they hear about cold or food poisoning incidents around me or hear reports of cold or food poisoning on the news.
Overall, homemakers with children tend to be much more aware of washing their hands using soap or hand soap than women without children.
As shown in Figure 1, in 2001, many more respondents in both categories reported washing hands using only (hot) water than in other years. We suspect this is because there was no outstanding news regarding infectious diseases in 2001.
● Why wash your hands?
We further asked the respondents why they wash their hands.
To wash off germs was the largest response for both groups. Homemakers with children understandably voiced this opinion more clearly.
Over 60% of homemakers with children reported they wash their hands before food preparation and before eating in order to kill germs or to prevent food poisoning. Approximately 50% of women without children report washing their hands to wash off dust or dirt or because it feels gross not to wash your hands. Approximately 30% of such respondents, a relatively low percentage, seem to be aware of fighting germs and food poisoning.
● Washing hands upon returning home is a fundamental of childrearing
We wanted to learn to what degree people are aware that handwashing using soap or hand soap is effective in preventing food poisoning. Approximately 80% responded with either I think it is effective or I think it is somewhat effective. It appears that awareness that handwashing is effective in preventing food poisoning is fairly high.
Among those who feel that handwashing is effective, most felt it was because it is effective in fighting germs. Among those who feel that there are no effects, reasons such as food poisoning is the result of food preparation methods and/or ingredients and hand washing alone is not prevention were cited.
We asked homemakers with children if they are bringing up their children hygienically. A high rate of 90% reported positively. Such habits include making the children wash their hands when coming in from outside (98%), making the children take baths (96%), and making the children wash their hands after using the toilet (94%).
3. From the 47th Clean Survey
|Next we discuss gargling practices. Our survey subjects were the same as for the handwashing topic.
● To what extent has gargling become a habit?
Our survey respondents for this survey were homemakers with children and women without children. Eighty percent of respondents reported they practice gargling, either Almost every day or I gargle, but not every day. Of the respondents who reported gargling Almost every day, the rate for homemakers with children (60%) was higher than women without children (44%) (Figure 1).
It appears that gargling has become as rooted in habit as handwashing.
We asked people who practice gargling regularly about their style, frequency, and method of gargling.
Among people who responded that they gargle when they feel a sore throat, or when colds or influenza are going around, mouthwash usage is high. Otherwise, most people normally gargle using only water (including hot water) (Figure 2).
As Japanese tend to drink green tea, there are people who use it to gargle. Catechin is found in large quantities in green tea, and this is said to have virus-fighting properties.
● Many respondents expect gargling to be effective in fighting colds and influenza.
Eighty-six percent of homemakers with children and 96% of women without children responded I think it is effective or I think it is somewhat effective to the question 'Do you think gargling is a preventive measure against colds or influenza?' It seems many expect efficacy from gargling. Women without children especially feel unconditionally that I think it is effective, with 70% reporting this response. (Figure 3)
We asked respondents who answered It is effective why they believed this. The overwhelming response was Because it kills germs.
● Gargling appears to be important among homemakers raising children.
It is noteworthy that the response I make my children gargle when they come in from outside jumped 20 points in this survey to 89.8%, up from 70% in the previous survey (2001) and 69% in the survey before that (1997).
This appears to be a reaction to incidents of infectious disease outbreaks in recent years.