Japan Environment Council Recommends Action on PFAS

Decision follows Stockholm convention ban.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals.

Japan’s Central Environment Council has concluded that perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), its salts and related compounds, and 2,2,2-trichloro-1-(2-chlorophenyl)-1-(4-chlorophenyl)ethanol (also known as o,p’-dicofol), should be designated as Class I chemical substances.

The Ministry of Environment published the Council’s first report containing its conclusions on 19 August.

Under Japan’s Chemical Substance Control Law (CSCL), substances are classified as Class I if they are persistent, highly bio-accumulative, or have a risk of long-term toxicity to humans. The import, manufacture or sale of products containing Class I substances is prohibited.

In May, delegates at the meeting of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants unanimously agreed to ban the use of PFOA. The substance will be listed in Annex A of the convention, meaning it will be prohibited from production, import or use, except for some specific exemptions.

PFOA is widely used in both industrial and domestic applications, including non-stick cookware and as a surfactant in textiles, carpets, paper, paints and firefighting foams.


In 2016, in response to the Stockholm Convention proposal to ban PFOA, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Meti) began collecting information from companies regarding current use and imports.

Meti also gathered information on substances used as alternatives. The Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) used this information in its risk assessment evaluations.

It did so with the aim of imposing a ban on the substance in 2020, if the parties of the Stockholm Convention added them to Annex A in 2019.

Japan’s Central Environment Council report contains the findings of the POPRC risk assessments, which conclude that the substance is considered to have persistent and highly bio-accumulative properties, as well as long-term toxicity.

The Council has not detailed a firm date for a ban.

Next steps

Substances are designated as Class I substances after the government issues a cabinet order.

After it has completed a draft order, the government will conduct a public consultation.

The authorities will issue additional information to specify:

  • the products restricted from import (taking into consideration overseas usage of the substance, its salts and compounds); and
  • the use exemptions where substitution is difficult.

The Council will also continue to explore what products should be subject to technical guidelines and labelling obligations.


Published on and written by Ellen Daliday