Stricter regulations on the sale and use of the potentially dangerous chemicals ammonium nitrate and hydrogen fluoride will come into effect later this year, the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) said Thursday.
The chemicals will be controlled under the Toxic and Concerned Chemical Substances Control Act from July 1 and Dec. 1, respectively, the EPA added.
Both substances are already subject to regulation by various government agencies, though the current rules do not provide for close monitoring of how they are used in Taiwan, Hsieh Yein-rui, head of the EPA’s Toxic and Chemical Substances Bureau, said at a press briefing on Thursday.
By including the two substances in the act, authorities will be able to track their use more precisely, Hsieh said.
Ammonium nitrate is often imported into Taiwan, and can be used as a fertilizer and an ingredient in explosives. It is also a key component in producing nitrous oxide, commonly known as laughing gas, according to Hsieh.
As laughing gas is already regulated under the act, and an explosion of ammonium nitrate in Beirut, Lebanon last year killed hundreds of people and left hundreds of thousands homeless, the EPA has decided to more strictly regulate the substance, Hsieh said.
Meanwhile, hydrogen fluoride forms hydrofluoric acid when dissolved in water, which is highly corrosive and can cause severe skin burns, Hsieh said.
In Taiwan, the acid is mainly used in the technology and manufacturing industries, but it is also used to clean air conditioners and the exterior of buildings, according to Hsieh.
When the two substances are regulated under the Toxic and Concerned Chemical Substances Control Act, anyone who produces, imports, sells, uses, transports or stores them will have to obtain prior approval from local governments and submit relevant information on their use each month.
Under the act, unlicensed users of the substances will be subject to a fine of NT$30,000 (US$1,041) to NT$300,000 and can be ordered to shut down.
In cases where the unlicensed use of the chemicals results in death, the penalty will be seven years to life in a prison and a fine of up to NT$10 million, Hsieh said.
There are also additional regulations for operators that use large amounts of the two substances at high concentration levels, including submitting how they plan to prevent accidents, insuring and training relevant personnel, and installing monitors and alarm devices.
Of the roughly 200 operators using each of the two substances in Taiwan, nine that use ammonium nitrate meet this definition, while 65 meet it for hydrogen fluoride, according to Hsieh.