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Staff writer

The recent commotion touched off by a TV report on dioxin in produce from Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, has served as another reminder of how vulnerable society has become to hazardous chemicals.

With both authorities and industry lagging in pollution control, public confidence in the state of the living environment is steadily eroding.

To address this issue in accordance with global efforts to control harmful pollutants and waste products, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and the Environment Agency today will jointly submit to the Diet a bill that would require companies to report on the discharge and disposal of more than 200 hazardous chemicals.

The Pollutant Release and Transfer Register system aims to encourage the efficient use of chemicals to prevent pollution, in line with similar reporting systems in the United States and other industrialized nations.

However, there are concerns about whether the system, which would maintain greater authority of the central government, will allow for adequate public disclosure.

Critics claim the bill is the result of compromise between the Environment Agency and MITI over control of their respective turfs — protection of the environment and industrial policy.

Under the system, which would take effect from fiscal 2001, plants that release more than a certain amount of chemicals designated under the law would be required to report exact figures annually.

Government officials said endocrine disrupters are not covered by the bill because their effect on the human body has not been established.

After companies report, authorities would then screen out information they consider to be corporate secrets and send the remaining data to a database to be jointly administered by the two government bodies, the officials said.

The database would be offered to municipal governments and made available to the public through the mail and over computer networks for a fee.

The PRTR bill stems from a recommendation adopted in 1996 by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. It urges OECD members to implement PRTR to help the world meet the objectives developed by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.

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