Tag Archives: Environment

G20: Ban Microcapsules in Home and Personal Care Products

May 10, 2019

Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ)

Japan Endocrine-disruptor Preventive Action (JEPA)

Toxic Watch Network Japan

Chemical Sensitivity Support Center

Association for Voluntary Ban on Fragrance

Consumers Union of Japan Kansai group

Mr. SEKO Hiroshige, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry

Mr. HARADA Yoshiaki, Minister of Environment

Mr. NEMOTO Takumi, Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare

Urgent Proposal
To Ban Microcapsules in Home and Personal Care Products

We urge the Japanese government to lead the world in regulating microplastics at G20 in Osaka.

We are a coalition of six Japanese citizen groups acting against unacceptable fragrance attack called “KOGAI” (香害=scent damage) in Japan. Recently, many of home and personal care products contain more and more synthetic fragrance substances. Of note, fabric softeners have caused unprecedented adverse health effects to Japanese people including children. When CUJ opened a telephone consultation “KOGAI 110” for two days in 2017 to collect voices from KOGAI victims, it received more than two hundreds phone calls from all over the country.

Meanwhile, microplastic marine pollution is getting more serious worldwide and drastic measures are required. Although the efforts to reduce microbeads in cosmetics and toothpastes have been started voluntarily by the manufacturers, it seems that the microcapsule problems have not been clearly recognized in Japan and no measures have been taken. Since the major purpose of fragrance encapsulation technology used in home and personal care products is to last the fragrance long, we believe that the technology is one of the main causes of KOGAI.

The microcapsules used in fabric softeners and synthetic detergents are supposed to be broken into smaller pieces in the environment and the debris could cause plastic pollution in the soil and the ocean. Moreover, micro-size particles, including air pollutant PM2.5, may reach deep into the lungs when inhaled. Consequently, the microcapsule debris could be very harmful to humans.

Therefore, we urge G20 governments to ban microcapsules in home and personal care products. We hope the Japanese government to lead the world in regulating microplastics at G20 in Osaka.

Proposals

1. The microcapsules in home and personal care products should be banned. In addition, the reduction plans for microcapsules should be explicitly included in “The Plastic Resources Recycling Strategy” proposed at G20 in Osaka.

2. It should be explicitly stated that microcapsules are included in microplastics in “The Law concerning Adequate Disposal of Marine Debris in the Way of Good Scenes and Environments on Beaches and Sea Surroundings to Protect Beautiful and Rich Nature” and “the Plastic Resource Recycling Strategy”.

Reasons for the Proposals

  1. Microplastics are fine plastics with a size of 5mm or less. There are two types of microplastics: “primary microplastic” which is intentionally manufactured in micro size such as microbeads and microcapsules, and “secondary microplastic” which is manufactured in larger sizes and be broken down to micro size in the environment.
  2. It is unclear whether microcapsules are included in the microplastics category in “The Plastic Resources Recycling Strategy” and “The Law Concerning Adequate Disposal of Marine Debris in the Way of Good Scenes and Environments on Beaches and Sea Surroundings to Protect Beautiful and Rich Nature” revised in June 2018. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) submitted to the European Commission a proposal report on a regulation of “intentionally added microplastics” in January 2019. In the proposal, ECHA recommended that microcapsules contained in home and personal care products should be banned in the European region within five years.
  3. Many fabric softeners, synthetic detergents, and other home and personal care products contain microcapsules made of plastics (synthetic resins) to encapsulate fragrance substances. The fragrance encapsulation technology is used in 10 to 20% of synthetic detergents and about 60% of fabric softeners (including scented beads) worldwide. Therefore, numerous pieces of microcapsules could be emitted in the air, the ocean, and the soil from the laundry and the waste water. In any cases some of the microcapsules could be transported in human bodies and cause adverse health effects. The microcapsule wall materials are melamine resins, polyurethanes, polyureas, and polyacrylates. When microcapsule wall materials are polyurethane, an extremely dangerous substance called isocyanate could be released into the environment. We believe that the microcapsules in home and personal care products should be banned immediately, since it could exacerbate plastic pollution of the soil, the ocean, the air, and human bodies.

Contact Information:

Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ)

Nishi Waseda 1-9-19-207

Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo

Japan 169-0051

Biodiversity In The News: Anything Useful from G20 Japan 2019 Niigata, Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting on May 11 to 12, 2019?

At the G7 environment ministers’ meeting in France this weekend, The Guardian reported that there was a call for a biodiversity study that is as influential as the Stern review on the economics of climate change. Yes, there is an “economic case” for understanding the value of biological diversity to mankind, and to the planet. But we expect much more from researchers and experts, from governments and corporations. CUJ is opposed to GMOs and the new genome editing technologies, that ignore and threaten the age-old development of species. We expect a full reversal of the free trade economic agreements that promote globalisation without a thought of its effect at the local level.

Small scale farmers need markets to reach consumers, and consumers need to know where their food is coming from. CUJ is calling for food and goods that are “locally made, locally consumed” and we continue to fight for biological diversity that is not subject to multinational corporations and WTO rules with patent provisions that make seed saving impossible.

At the G20 Japan 2019 Niigata, Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting on May 11 to 12, 2019, what policies will be discussed?

https://www.japan.go.jp/g20japan/niigata.html

No recent mention of biodiversity, or climate change. Is that not just a little too outrageous, or what do you think…? You’d have to go back to 2016 to find a pdf document that discusses “Basic Concept of Climate Change Adaptation on Biodiversity in Japan” from the Ministry of the Environment.

Quote: At the summit of Mount Fuji, seed plants have been observed that were not previously present, and mosses whose growth is affected by permafrost have been in decline.

But, yes, there is positive news a too. And a lot of it. Here is a quote from Japan Environment Quarterly, March 2019 (pdf):

Quote: Humans form a part of biodiversity as well as a part of the natural environment. Rather than living in opposition to the natural environment, which can both deliver great bounty and at times pose great threats, we could live in harmony, which would enable us to make the most of the resources of nature. For instance, the city of Toyooka in Hyogo Prefecture has designated the stork as the symbol of its initiatives. Based on rice grown via “the stork friendly farming method”, the city has increased the income of farmers. This rice grown without relying on pesticides and chemical fertilizers is sold at a price 1.3 to 1.6 times that of conventionally-grown rice. Additionally, the city has employed ecotourism in initiatives on returning storks to the wild. Teaming up with local travel agents, the city has proposed “stork tourism” that combine viewing of storks and local scenic spots. Visitors to the city’s Museum of the Oriental White Stork, where one can get a close look at storks, have roughly tripled following release of the storks into the wild.

MAFF will hold another meeting as part of the G20 in Biwa on May 13-15, 2019.

But nobody from the active NGOs in Japan, with a long history of working on these issues since the 1960s, 1970s, are invited. Business as usual? Japan, you can do better.

 

Youth Strike for Climate Change Movement Reaches Japan

On March 15, 2019 a campaign to demonstrate against the lack of action to stop climate change will hold events around the world. Here in Japan, events are planned at Yoyogi Park, Tokyo (15:00) and at the City Hall in Kyoto (12:00-1300).  Again, on March 22 a demonstration will be held outside the Japanese Parliament Building in Tokyo (start 15:00). Bring your own plackard!

(Photo from the February 22, 2019 demonstration in Tokyo)

Read more here: Youth strike for climate change movement reaches Japan

Fridays for Future Japan (Facebook)

CUJ Public Comment about Genome Editing Techniques for Food

On February 21, 2019, Consumers Union of Japan submitted the following public comment in response to the Japanese government’s GM Food, etc. Investigative Panel of the Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) regarding the handling of food modified by genome editing.

Consumers Union of Japan is working for a sound and healthy future for all. This is why we are active in protecting our surrounding environment and the safety of our daily food. We believe this is what the Japanese government also wants. However, there are reports that the government has concluded that the Food Sanitation Law will not apply to food obtained through genome editing, thus giving up the important focus to protect the environment while also protecting food safety. CUJ finds this unacceptable. Therefore, we request that you withdraw the report and redo the deliberation from the beginning.

These are our reasons:

  1. It is not possible to avoid off target influence and mosaic effects through genome editing. There are numerous studies that confirm this. The current conclusion contradicts data about such influences and effects by treating them in an overly optimistic way. After a serious change has occurred it will be too late to take action.
  2. Through genome editing, epigenetic changes (heritable changes in gene expressions) have been reported to take place, something you hardly mention in your report. We can’t help wondering if you are simply imagining that such a problem cannot happen.
  3. When inserting genes, and then removing them during the crossing stages, we assume that regulation is required. But even if the introduced genes are removed, there is no guarantee that they have been removed 100%, and that there does not remain any influence. Moreover, we have not heard that any safety studies have been done to make sure that such practices actually work as intended or that safety can be secured. We have big misgivings about the advancement of such technologies while the scientific basis appear to be so weak.
  4. The process of dealing with this by the Food Sanitation Law was compared to the safety examination of genetically modified food. Genome editing is also a genetic technology, but it differs fundamentally from DNA recombination technologies. Many more and various new vegetable or plant breeding experiments will now take place. New legal restrictions are needed for this. We cannot accept that no effort will be made to maintain the safety of our food supply by the government’s current policy approach.
  5. The Food Sanitation Law has a huge influence also on how food is labelled. If the labelling requirements are affected by the current conclusion, and no labelling is required, it will remove the consumer’s right to know and choose. This is a large and important responsibility for the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

 

Consumers Union of Japan

Nishi Waseda 1-9-19-207

Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo

Japan 169-0051

 

Concerns About Japan’s MagLev Train Project

Consumers Union of Japan went on a field trip to investigate the current problems surrounding the massive project to build a MagLev superconductive train system (known as “Linear” in Japanese). Before the trip, we talked to our guide, the director of Gauss Network, Mr. Kakehi Tetsuo, an expert on magnetic field radiation issues.

These are some of the main concerns:

The system selected to run Japan’s Central Shinkansen MagLev train is to use refrigerated liquid helium at minus 269 C and make the resistance or impedance zero. This is based on superconducting magnets. But there is a possibility that the cooling system will fail. This abnormal termination is known as “magnet quench” and would certainly lead to accidents. For example, the high speed train may hit the walls of the tunnels. There are no examples of such a superconducting system having any practical use anywhere in the world.

The amount of energy needed for this supercooling apparatus is immense. As much as 3.5 times as much energy is needed compared to running one of the current, traditional Shinkansen trains, and it could be more according to some experts. They will need at least an extra nuclear plant just to provide the electricity.

A very strong magnetic field around the train will be generated by such a system. We assume that there will be some kind of shield or screen to protect the passengers. However, in March 2018, Mr. Atsushi Yamada, a Kofu City Council Member, measured 300 Milligauss during a test ride. It is thought that levels above 2-3 Milligauss can be dangerous, so that is indeed a very high number.

The tunnel being planned through Japan’s Southern Alps will destroy the pristine nature of the local area. A large amount of rock and soil must be disposed of. We can expect large-scale environmental destruction, landslides and contamination of water, rivers and wells. Already, such changes in the ecosystem have been observed during the preparations for construction. The final disposal site for the estimated 56,800,000 square meters of tunnel excavation debris has not been decided. What valley or wetland will it all be buried at?

We know that passenger numbers on the current, traditional Shinkansen, the Tokaido Line, have already peaked. We know that the population of Japan will continue to decrease. We know that there is no real demand for this, and no profit to be expected, yet tax money is being invested.