The EPA newly announced ammonium nitrate and hydrogen fluoride as harmful chemical substances of concern, tightening operations such as manufacturing, imports, sales, uses, transportation, and storage, effective immediately. Handlers are to obtain permits, report operating data, and comply with regulations relevant to accident prevention and emergency responses. Sales and trades on online shopping platforms are banned, and hydrogen fluoride-containing products sold on the market must have proper labels. Above all, the measures aim to prevent accidents and harm caused by improper use.
These two substances are now announced as harmful concerned chemical substances because of their hazardous characteristics, and the EPA now has heavy penalties in place for mishandling them. Handling either substance without following the relevant regulations will result in fines between NT$30,000 and NT$300,000. Offenders may be sentenced up to seven years or even receive life sentences, along with fines of up to NT$1 million, depending on the extent to which their violations harm human health or cause death. A fine between NT$30,000 and NT$500,000 will be imposed for failing to comply with prevention and response regulations. Violators will be penalized with fines between NT$1 million to NT$5 million for not having third-party liability insurance or for failing to set up response equipment or detection and alarm facilities in accordance with regulations. The EPA pointed out that ammonium nitrate is a substance of high concern internationally. It is not only a precursor substance to the first substance listed by the EPA as a chemical of concern (nitrous oxide or laughing gas), but, for example, its improper storage was also behind the large 2020 explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. As for hydrogen fluoride, its unsafe handling has also caused numerous casualties and deaths. For these reasons these two substances are listed for control.
The EPA said that products on the market such as cleansers for aluminum alloy, outer walls, and limescale usually contain hydrogen fluoride at a concentration of less than 10%, and may be susceptible to misuse by the public, or cause incidents due to delayed hospitalization. Hence, controls for hydrogen fluoride are to be strengthened in phases. For products with a low concentration (above 0.1% and below 10%), containers and packaging are to comply with relevant regulations and fully display product information to inform users of possible risks and ensure safe use. Meanwhile, a minimum label size has been specified for containers and packaging. For the use of higher hydrogen fluoride concentrations (over 10%), which are extremely dangerous to human health, permits must be applied for and approved. To lower risks, factories, chemical substance retail stores, and other outlets and channels selling hydrogen fluoride solvents must obtain permits before selling them.
To reduce safety and health risks arising from misuse and abuse of ammonium nitrate and hydrogen fluoride, the EPA has proposed a strategy with five requirements and two bans. Handlers are required to acquire permits, operate only after being licensed, apply proper labels, record all activities online, file monthly reports, carry out prevention and response measures, and comply with bans on online buying and selling. All operations from the start to the end of the industrial chain, including manufacturing, imports, sales, use, and storage, cannot proceed without permits. If the total amount handled exceeds the control levels, operators are to abide by accident prevention and emergency response regulations under the Toxic and Concerned Chemical Substances Control Act (毒性及關注化學物質管理法). These measures include submitting risk prevention and response plans, acquiring liability insurance, conducting professional training for response personnel, setting up joint prevention entities, preparing response equipment and detection and alarm facilities, and registering transport documents. These measures are aimed at improving the risk management of chemical substances by enhancing accident response, risk prevention, transportation, and safe management of the two substances.
Finally, the EPA further explained that, after ammonium nitrate was listed as a concerned chemical substance, as of 1 October 2021, enterprises are to keep online records of every operation activity and file them every month if the amounts they handle change. The purpose is to obtain storage information in real-time, strengthen response management, and further enhance management of the production sources of laughing gas.
Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, September 2021
- Environmental Protection Administration, R.O.C.(Taiwan)