China Releases First Plan to Protect Environment from Toxic Chemicals

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Feb. 26 – With the aim to improve the country’s environmental risk management capabilities, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) issued the “12th Five-Year Plan for Prevention and Control of Chemical Risks to the Environment (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Plan’)” on February 21, which is the country’s first plan to safeguard the environment against dangerous chemicals. In the Plan, the Chinese government has officially admitted the existence of “cancer villages” for the first time.

“In recent years, toxic and hazardous chemical pollution has caused many environmental disasters, cutting off drinking water supplies, and even leading to severe health and social problems such as the emergence of cancer villages,” according to the Plan.

It is reported that cancer is now China’s biggest killer, and one in four Chinese now die from the disease, marking an 80 percent rise in the mortality rate from cancer over the past 30 years.

The Plan also points out that China is facing a grave situation in terms of chemical pollution control. Out of the 568 environmental emergency cases reported to the MEP between 2008 and 2011, more than half were related to toxic chemicals. Moreover, certain harmful chemicals that have been banned in developed countries are still being used and produced in China.

In 2010, the chemical industrial output value in China topped the rest of the world, with the output of pesticides, dye-stuff, methanol and chemical fertilizer ranking first.

The Plan has labeled 58 chemicals as key chemicals to be controlled and prevented from exposure to the environment, and the industries listed below are the main areas to be targeted during the 12th five-year period:

  • Textiles
  • Petroleum refining, coking and nuclear fuel processing
  • Chemical materials and products manufacturing
  • Pharmaceutical manufacturing
  • Chemical fiber manufacturing
  • Non-ferrous metal smelting and processing
  • Coal chemical manufacturing

The Plan aims to establish a chemical environmental risk management system and enhance the management of environmental risks by 2015.

In another move to protect the environment, the MEP issued the “12th Five-Year Plan for the Development of a State Environmental Protection Standard (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Standard Plan’)” on February 22, which plans to enact and revise 600 types of environmental standards and release 300 more by 2015.

The standards will mainly cover water, air, soil, ecosystem, sound and vibration.

According to the Standard Plan, a system to assess the effects of the standards will be launched, and an assessment on roughly 30 standards will be initiated by 2015.

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