In 2008, Korea enacted the Environmental Health Act to protect public health from environmental pollution, which was the world’s first integrated approach ever taken towards environmental damage and its impact on human health focusing on prevention and management. Since then, the Ministry has developed the 10-Year Master Plan for Environmental Health while conducting the national preliminary survey on people’s environmental health, birth cohort study for children, and health impact assessment.
The Government has also tightened its control over hazardous chemical substances often used and found at daycares for children and schools, and provided medical services for potential pollution damages to those in need.
The Act on Liability for Environmental Damage and Relief Thereof came into effect in 2016, aiming to clarify liability for damage caused by environmental pollution and reduce the burden of victims who previously had to prove the causation by themselves. According to the Act, the facilities with high risk of environmental pollution must have environmental liability insurance to ensure timely and proper compensation for victims. The Government offers relief to the victims who are out of compensation coverage.
The Ministry manages indoor air quality of public facilities, newly-built multi-family housing and public transportation pursuant to the Indoor Air Quality Control Act. The Act sets allowable levels of major pollutants such as PM, formaldehyde and radon. Nearly 40,000 public facilities are regulated under this Act as of 2018.
Asbestos refers to naturally-occurring silicate minerals. WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies asbestos as carcinogenic to humans (IARC Group I) since it causes malignant mesothelioma or lung cancer if inhaled. The Ministry declared the year 2007 as the first year of nationwide control over asbestos and developed the Master Plan for Asbestos Management with relevant ministries. In 2009, most of the asbestos-containing products were banned nationwide.
Korea enforced the amendment of the Act on Registration and Evaluation of Chemical Substances and the Act on Consumer Chemical Products and Biocides Safety in 2019, to prevent another humidifier disinfectant accident and ensure chemical safety in daily lives. Under the principle of “No Data, No Market”, the Government should secure all relevant hazard information of chemical products before their release to the market. The safety of biocides such as humidifier disinfectants, in particular, is fully verified and approved by the Ministry of Environment before they are sold to consumers.
After the hydrofluoric acid leakage accident in 2012, the Government enacted the Chemicals Control Act to enhance prevention and emergency response of chemical accidents. The Act includes provisions on business permission for hazardous substance, off-site consequence analysis and risk management plan. Under the Act, the Ministry has built the Chemical Accident Response Information System (CARIS) to effectively predict the extent of damage and share measures for disaster control in case of chemical accidents.