Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
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Organic Pigments That Can Unintentionally Contain Polychlorinated Biphenyl

A report from the Japan Dyestuff and Industrial Chemicals Association (JDICA) revealed that some organic pigments contained a trace of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) unintentionally generated in their manufacturing process. In response to the report, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) decided to immediately carry out an investigation into the actual situation and, as an urgent measure for the time being, instruct entrepreneurs to stop manufacture, import or shipment of organic pigments found to contain PCB over the international standard.

* Pigment: Generic term for water-insoluble or oil-insoluble powder used for coloring. Organic pigments are those comprising organic compounds.

1. Circumstances

In January 2011, the Ecological and Toxicological Association of Dyes and Organic Pigments Manufacturers (ETAD) published a report saying that PCB can be unintentionally generated in the manufacturing processes of certain organic pigments.

Following this report, members of JDICA voluntarily conducted investigations and found some cases where PCB was unintentionally generated as a byproduct. They reported the results of the investigation to METI on February 1 this year.

2. Report from JDICA

According to voluntary investigations by members of JDICA, they found cases where PCB was unintentionally generated as a byproduct for 57 items in total out of 98 organic pigments in total reported by six major companies up to yesterday. The table below shows the concentration of detected PCB

  PCB was not detected To 0.5 ppm Over 0.5 to 25 ppm Over 25 to 50 ppm Over 50 ppm
Number of items 41 items 15 items 37 items 3 items 2 items

3. Action taken by METI

(1) Urgent measures for the time being

  • METI will promptly make a request to 1) 41 entrepreneurs known to be manufacturing or importing the same type of organic pigments as those comprising PCB according to the report by JDICA on the basis of notifications under the Act on the Evaluation of Chemical Substances and Regulation of Their Manufacture, etc. (Chemical Substances Evaluation Act) and 2) all entrepreneurs that have notified manufacture and import quantity of chemical substances in accordance with the Chemical Substances Evaluation Act except for those referred to in 1) (about 1,400 entrepreneurs; METI will inquire with them individually on whether they are manufacturing or importing organic pigments). Specifically, METI will request them to analyze the substances that can generate PCB unintentionally (*) among organic pigments manufactured or imported by them (Administrative guidance).

    *Note: On the basis of the contents of the ETAD report, the substances satisfying one of the following conditions shall be analyzed: “Any chlorine atom is included in the chemical structure”, “Material containing chlorine atom is used” or “Solvent for aromatic chlorine compounds is used in the synthesis process”.

  • If it is found that, as the result of analysis, certain organic pigments contain PCB exceeding the concentration of 0.005% (50 ppm), i.e. the level over which distribution of the product should be suspended under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs convention), METI will take the following measures (Administrative guidance).

    1. METI will request the manufacturers and importers to stop manufacture, import and shipment unless concentration reduction measures to continuously keep the concentration not more than 50 ppm is confirmed by the administrative authority;
    2. METI will request the concerned manufacturers and importers to collect the organic pigments in question and keep them appropriately until their disposal.
    3. METI will request the customers identified by the report from the manufacturers or importers to stop using the organic pigment and to cooperate in collection by the manufacturers and importers.
  • If the organic pigments have already been shipped and used as a constituent of paint or the like, the dilution ratio of the substance would be changed to ten times that for the status of pigment.
    Therefore, METI considers that no problems would occur even if the paint is continuously used. To be sure, however, METI will have experts evaluate risks when the use of the product is continued.

(2) Setting of allowance for PCB byproduct by councils concerned

In cooperation with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the Ministry of the Environment, METI will hear opinions from experts to study the upper limit of PCB as a byproduct in organic pigments and the necessity of additional measures to cope with this problem on the basis of the actual situation survey, risk to human health etc. caused by PCB, organic pigment synthesis technology, overseas trends of regulations and so on in the future.

Release Date

February 10, 2012

Division in Charge

Chemical Management Policy Division, Manufacturing Industries Bureau

Related Information

Chemical Management
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
1-3-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8901, Japan Tel: +81-(0)3-3501-1511
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