China steps up efforts to control ‘new chemical pollutants’

Published 2022/06/01

“New pollutants” refer to pollutants that pose risks to the environment or human health, but are not managed yet or cannot be managed through existing measures so that the risks are contained. These include various toxic chemicals including persistent organic pollutants, endocrine disrupting chemicals and antibiotics.

By the end of 2022, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment will publish China’s first list of “new pollutants” for priority control, according to an action plan released by the State Council on 26 May 2022.

China Dialogue reports that “by the end of next year, the ministry should complete its first round of environmental risk assessment for a selected set of chemical pollutants, to understand their production, use and emissions patterns in the country.”

“Chemicals in the priority control list will be subject to restrictions and bans, states the action plan. Industry regulators will amend the “Catalogue for guiding industry restructuring”, a document aimed at upgrading China’s economy to high-quality development, in accordance with the priority control list, so as to phase out certain products such as industrial chemicals, pesticides and cosmetics. Environmental impact assessments will be strengthened to prevent new industrial projects from engaging in activities that use or emit the listed new pollutants.”

“The action plan is a major step towards plugging a regulatory loophole in China’s management of hazardous chemicals. For a long time, regulators have prioritised the control of highly visible pollution such as smog, while chemical safety regulators have focussed on immediately impactful chemicals like explosives and flammables. Thus tens of thousands of chemical substances circulating on the Chinese market, many posing long-term risks to human health and the natural world, have been falling through the cracks.”

“The action plan also calls for the creation of a State Council regulation on managing the risks of hazardous chemicals. If materialised, that would provide strong legal authority for environmental regulators to control a wide range of pollutants involved in industry, agriculture and medicine.”


In October 2021, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment released a draft of the New Pollutant Management Action Plan (新污染物治理行动方案 (征求意见稿)) The plan has been developed to manage new pollutants more effectively.

The full text of the draft plan is available at…/xxgk06/202110/t20211011_956084.html

Following is an overview of the draft action plan:

  • Carry out special spot checks on companies involved in new chemical registration
  • Carry out on-the-spot inspections of the quality of registration test data and publish the inspection results
  • Integrate new chemical management into the environmental law enforcement plan, imposing strict penalties on offenders
  • Ban the production, processing, use, import and export of hexabromocyclododecane from December 26, 2021
  • Ban the sale of daily-use chemicals containing microbeads by the end of 2022
  • Ban the production, processing, use, import and export of PFHxS, decabromodiphenyl ether, short-chain chlorinated paraffins, pentachlorophenol and its salts and esters, hexachlorobutadiene and Dechlorane Plus in phases by the end of 2025
  • Strictly restrict the production, processing and use of PFOS and PFOA
  • Ban the use of nonylphenols in agrochemicals
  • Practically achieve total compliance with dioxin emission standards
  • Strictly regulate the amount of certain hazardous chemicals in products by incorporating relevant requirements into the mandatory national standards (GB)
  • Develop mandatory national standards for hazardous chemical content in consumer goods, including toys and student products, in phases
  • Establish standards for limits on short-chain chlorinated paraffins content in chlorinated paraffin products by 2023

Establish and continuously update the Key Regulated New Pollutant List 2021 (重点管控新污染物清单 (2021年版)), which contains the following three classes of pollutants:

  1. Endocrine disruptors and antibiotics
  2. Substances regulated by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
  3. Substances on the Hazardous Air Pollutant List (有毒有害大气污染物名录) and Hazardous Water Pollutant List (有毒有害水污染物名录) whose risks cannot be contained through existing management measures.


Main regulation measures

  • PFOS Production is banned. Use, import and export will be banned from January 1, 2026 (with exceptions).
  • PFOA Production, use, import and export are banned (with exceptions such as for photolithography and etching in semiconductor manufacturing).
  • PFHxS Production, use import and export are banned.
  • HexabromocyclododecaneUse, import and export will be banned from December 26, 2021.
  • Decabromodiphenyl ether. Production, use, import and export are banned (with some exceptions in place until a total ban is implemented on January 1, 2024).
  • Short-chain chlorinated paraffins. Production, use, import and export are banned (with some exceptions in place until a total ban is implemented on January 1, 2024).
  • Hexachlorobutadiene Production, use, import and export are banned. Discharge is strictly regulated in the petrochemical and other industries.
  • Pentachlorophenol and its salts and esters Production, use, import and export are banned.
  • Dechlorane Plus Production, use, import and export will be banned from January 1, 2026.

In addition to the nine items above, the full list contains the following substances (28 items in total):

  • Nonylphenol ethoxylates
  • Antibiotics
  • Dioxins
  • Dichloromethane
  • Chloroform
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Tetrachloroethylene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Acetaldehyde
  • Chlordane
  • Mirex
  • Hexachlorobenzene
  • DDT
  • α-Hexachlorocyclohexane
  • β-Hexachlorocyclohexane
  • Lindane
  • Endosulfan
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Dicofol

Each item is subject to different rules. For details, see the full list at the end of the draft action plan (in Chinese).