Initiatives for Preventing Pollution
Among environmental initiatives, the prevention of environmental pollution in local communities is just as important as global environmental issues. In recent years, there has also been a strengthening of various laws and regulations, including the strengthening of measures to prevent any increase of damage in the case of water pollution accidents.
Meanwhile, the international community has reached an agreement on minimizing the adverse effects that the production and use of chemical substances have on human health and the environment by the year 2020. Each country is, therefore, implementing its own initiatives on the control of chemical substances.
Astellas sets its own levels which are stricter than legal standards and pollution control agreements for the major environmental management indicators used to measure air quality and water quality. In addition to reducing the discharge of contaminants, we are also promoting voluntary activities to reduce the discharge of chemical substances into the atmosphere.
Astellas sets voluntary numerical targets for reducing the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) it discharges accompanying the use of solvents in production and research activities. In fiscal 2015, the final fiscal year of our Environmental Action Plan, we achieved our target to reduce VOCs by more than 25% compared to fiscal 2006. From fiscal 2016 onward, we have continued our reduction efforts without setting any numerical targets.
In emissions of VOCs into the atmosphere, the figure for fiscal 2016 was 49 tons, an increase of 7 tons over the previous year. Compared with fiscal 2006, this was a decrease of 17 tons (25.8%). Moreover, in addition to reducing atmospheric pollution, we have taken other steps to minimize the impact of our business operations on our employees, the regional communities in which we work, and the global environment. Such steps include measures to prevent environmental pollution by chemical substances as well as workplace accidents and health hazards, and take the form of adopting new production methods that do not employ high-risk chemicals.
To reduce the atmospheric emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), we completed the shutdown of incinerators and shifting from liquid fuel such as fuel oil to city gas. In addition, we are proceeding to replace boilers using city gas with low-NOx-type boilers.
As a result, SOx emissions were zero, and NOx emissions increased by 4 tons from the previous fiscal year, to 29 tons.
Astellas measures the extent of its impact on aquatic environments by adopting the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) load as an index, and makes the data available to the public.
In Japan, the BOD load in fiscal 2016 was 12 tons , slightly up from the previous fiscal year. Outside Japan, the BOD in fiscal 2016 was 5 tons (excluding Meppel Plant), down from the previous year.
Since the discharge into water of chemical substances used in manufacturing processes can have a negative impact on ecosystems, we are examining ways of reducing such discharges as much as possible at all stages from R&D onward.
With respect to future drug candidate substances discovered and developed by Astellas, we are examining the impact pharmaceuticals would have on ecosystems through the evaluation of their biodegradability in the natural environment, and will take action as appropriate. In addition, in fiscal 2016 we evaluated our wastewater management method by using bioassays targeting facilities that were releasing wastewater into rivers after treatment. We confirmed that they are now less likely to have a significant impact on the ecosystem.
Compliance with Environmental Laws and Regulations
Over the past five years, there were no infractions of laws or regulations related to environmental issues that were identified at our business sites in Japan or overseas.
Environment-Related Accidents and Complaints
In fiscal 2016, there were no environment-related accidents in Japan. In fiscal 2015, there was an accident in which the pressure in the reaction vessel became higher than normal, and a part of the gas being generated was released into the atmosphere, in the pharmaceutical manufacturing process at the Takahagi Facilities. Because exhaust gas falls under the scope of the specific substances of the Air Pollution Control Law, we submitted an accident report, including the measures taken to prevent recurrence.
Except for this accident, Astellas has not recorded an environment-related accident in Japan over the past five years.
We received no environmental-related complaints associated with facilities operations.
Soil Contamination Assessments
Under the Soil Contamination Countermeasures Act of Japan and prefectural ordinances, soil contamination assessments are mandatory where projects for building or demolishing facilities exceeding a certain scale are undertaken and collectively there is a change in the characteristics of the land. To date, Astellas has undertaken soil contamination assessments based on relevant laws and ordinances as well as related voluntary evaluation to determine the existence or otherwise of contamination. In the event contamination is identified, the Company has taken purification and other remedial measures.
In fiscal 2016, we conducted a soil contamination survey at the closed Kashima R&D Center, and reported to the city of Osaka that soil contamination had been discovered. Based on these reported results, in April 2017 the plant was designated as a contaminated area on the basis of the Soil Contamination Countermeasures Act. Astellas will demolish the center and take other appropriate action in consultation with the governmental authorities. The substances that were discovered to be present in levels that exceeded the standards are as follows:
- Hexavalent chromium compound
- Mercury and its compounds
- Selenium and its compounds
- Lead and its compounds
- Arsenic and its compounds
- Fluorine and its compounds
Drawing on the results of soil contamination assessments completed over the past five years, no instances of contamination were detected other than the case mentioned above.