Chemicals and Mercury

Global Trends in Chemical Substance Management and OECC’s Activities

In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) was held in Johannesburg and the summit adopted the WSSD goal, “aiming to achieve, by 2020, that chemicals are used and produced in ways that lead to the minimization of significant adverse effects on human health and the environment”. Also adopted was the UNEP’s “the Strategic Approach on International Chemical Management (SAICM),” which aims to realize the WSSD goal. Many countries, both the developed and developing, have been promoting activities to achieve the goal.

The global trends in chemical substance management have shifted from hazard-based approach to risk-based approach, where not only the hazardous properties but also exposure risks are considered, as can be seen in Japanese CSCL: the Chemical Substance Control Law and EU REACH regulation. As another global trend in chemical substance management, the concept of lifecycle management has been introduced, which aims to manage the risks of chemical substances’ adverse effect to health and environment throughout the lifecycle stages of manufacturing, consumption, use, supplying chain, waste treatment, etc..

In these global trends, each nation implement measures to achieve the WSSD goal by enforcing laws and regulations in chemical substance management as deemed appropriate by each nation.

OECC holds seminars to share the latest trends on international chemical substance management by inviting overseas administrative officers as guest speakers. OECC also publishes the latest information on chemical management laws and regulations abroad, to assist timely response to the changing global trend in chemical management. These activities aim to promote sharing information and cooperation between the government and industries beyond the boundary between them. OECC also supports the activities in developing countries such as Indonesia and Vietnam to enhance appropriate chemicals management policy implementation.

Seminar on the latest trends on chemicals management in Thailand
Dec. 2016 (Tokyo)


Activities on Mercury

Mercury is the only metal which exists as liquid under atmospheric pressure and room temperature and it has been used in varieties of applications such as gold-coating (amalgamating) the Great Buddha in Nara, owing to its various properties such as alloy forming potential with various kinds of metals. However, due to its toxic property and pollution issues, its use has been decreasing globally.

In 2013, the Diplomatic Conference held in Minamata city adopted “The Minamata Convention on Mercury” and 92 nations including EU signed it. The objective of this Convention is to protect the human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions of mercury and mercury compounds, and it regulates sound management throughout the lifecycle of mercury including mining, transportation, use and waste stages. Japan ratified the Convention on Feb. 2nd, 2016 and on May 18th, 2017, marked the 50-ratifications required for the Convention to enter into force, legally binding all Parties from Aug. 16th 2017; i.e. the entry into force. The Japanese government has reaffirmed its commitment to mercury management based on the Convention both within Japan and worldwide*1).

OECC has been promoting activities to transfer the mercury reduction technologies developed in Japan to developing countries towards global reduction of mercury use. For example, OECC has been studying the possibilities to promote the mercury-free technologies in caustic soda manufacturing in Latin America and Asia. OECC also held an awareness raising event in 2015 in Minamata city, and participated in the international Mercury conference (INC7: Seventh Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Mercury) held in Jordan, 2016.

*1) “The Minamata Convention on Mercury” will enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit of the fiftieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

At the International Conference on Mercury (INC7)
Mar. 2016 (Jordan)