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China Rolls Out Air Toxics Standards for Volatile Compounds

June 30, 2019, 10:00 PM

Three national standards for airborne volatile organic compound emissions will take effect July 1 in China, as the country moves to reduce the pollutant, a major contributor to the formation of harmful ground-level ozone pollution.

Manufacturers of paint, inks and adhesives, and pharmaceuticals will be affected, as well as industries that store or use materials that could emit VOCs.

The standards set specific limits are set on the release of VOC compounds and require manufacturers to self-monitor and maintain records of emissions.

For the fugitive emissions control standards, facilities are required to store VOC containing materials in packaging that be airtight in indoor areas that are not affected by the elements. Records must be kept on storage and use for three years.

Helping Hand

“There’s been a lot of talk about the need to push for low VOCs emissions, but none of the existing regulations or policies on the matter have specified to what extent the emission is considered ‘low,’ and current standards in different cities also vary to various degrees,” a representative from the China National Coatings Industry Association in Beijing, who helped draft the standard, said by phone June 28.

“This often makes it difficult to enforce VOC-related regulations and we thought a national standard would be helpful in that regard,” the representative said, declining to have his name used since he wasn’t authorized to comment.

The three standards are mandatory and the first controls for volatile organic compound emissions. They go into effect for proposed new facilities on July 1. Existing facilities will have to comply with the standards starting July 1, 2020.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment and its local bureaus will release and enforce the standards.

The ministry or provincial environmental bureaus also can require more stringent limits based on certain air pollution control areas, or other local policies.

Representatives from the China Pharmaceutical Industry Association didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ten companies in the paint, ink and adhesives, and pharmaceutical industries declined to comment, or said they weren’t aware of the policy when reached by phone.

Volatile organic compound emissions mix with nitrogen oxide in the atmosphere to create ozone in the presence of sunlight.

While China has made strides in reducing air pollutants from fine particulate matter—small particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter that damage the respiratory system—ozone levels have been increasing as a consequence since there are less sun-blocking particles in the air.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael Standaert in Shenzhen, China, at correspondents@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Gregory Henderson at ghenderson@bloombergenvironment.com; Jean Fogarty at jfogarty@bloombergenvironment.com; Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloombergenvironment.com

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