China aims to control and ban hazardous substances


China will soon have stricter regulations regarding the production and distribution of chemical substances. China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) recently released the draft of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and Vision 2035 of the People’s Republic of China. It is reported that the objective is to develop a solid system for dealing with new hazardous substances by 2025, and to control or ban a number of new hazardous substances of particular concern, both domestically and abroad.

The annex to the draft plan initially lists 28 chemical substances that should be dealt with as a priority. These include hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), which is to be banned as early as December 26, 2021. The ban applies to both production and use, as well as import and export. However, the list will be regularly updated to include the following substances:

  • Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) and antibiotic-like substances, which are of great concern both domestically and abroad
  • Chemical substances included in the Stockholm Convention list of persistent organic pollutants (POPs Regulation)
  • Hazardous substances listed in the Toxic and Hazardous Air Pollutants List and the Toxic and Hazardous Water Pollutants List, etc., whose environmental risks cannot be effectively controlled by existing measures

Six measures have been specified which aim to control the risks associated with these hazardous substances by 2035:

  • Optimize regulations and establish a solid system for dealing with new hazardous substances
  • Conduct studies and assessments of the environmental risks of new hazardous substances
  • Strengthen source monitoring management for new hazardous substances
  • Reduce the emission of new hazardous substances
  • Continuously reduce the environmental risks associated with new hazardous substances
  • Strengthen monitoring and technical support

Numerous regulations and standards are therefore currently being revised or reformulated, including the Regulation on the Environmental Management of Toxic and Hazardous Chemical Substances, the Environmental Protection Act, and the Marine Environment Protection Act.

The next steps have been defined as follows:

  • By 2022, the assessment plan for the first group of priority chemical substances should be published. It will be dynamically updated and, as planned, the MEE will complete the environmental impact assessment of 5 to 10 chemical substances per year.
  • By 2023, the first investigative round should be completed, which will examine basic information on chemical substances on the market. This will include an investigation into the first group of priority chemical substances that were earmarked for evaluation.
  • By 2025, a preliminary environmental monitoring system for new hazardous substances is going to be established.

The plan means there will be tougher penalties for companies that infringe the regulations. In addition, stricter measures will be taken to restrict and prevent the import/export and use of some hazardous chemicals. For example, registering or issuing  production licenses for products containing banned and restricted chemical substances listed in China’s Catalogue for Guiding Industry Restructuring will be restricted.

Previously, companies could often have their products manufactured in China that contained substances banned in the EU (REACH Authorization Annex XIV). These products could then be imported into the EU as articles. If China now also bans these substances, this means that the products can no longer be manufactured there either.