More than half the country's drug factories will have to upgrade their facilities or face shutdown with the first pollution control standards for the pharmaceutical industry set to be unveiled by the end of the year.
It took three years to draft the industry's discharge standards, said Xing Shubin, an expert at the State Environmental Protection Engineering Center for Pharmacy Waste Water Control.
The standards are expected to undergo a nationwide review by enterprises, experts and the authorities this month, Xing, who was in charge of drafting the standards, told China Daily.
He added that they are likely to be approved by the year-end.
The thresholds set by the new standards will be "much higher" than the existing practices, the official said.
The current standards for industrial wastewater and emissions were made in the 1990s, with no specific rules or requirements for pharmaceutical companies.
Due to fierce competition, and to minimize costs, drug companies tend not to prioritize waste control and environmental protection, said Zhang Buyong, an expert with Guangzhou-based South Medicine Economic Research Institution.
Of the list of 6,066 heavily polluting companies published in March by the State Environmental Protection Administration, 117 were pharmaceutical firms, according to a China Business News report.
Kevin May, toxics campaign manager at Greenpeace China, pointed out that pollution from the pharmaceutical industry is persistent and cumulative; and his organization urges companies to increase spending on waste control.
Last week, Huaxing Medicines Factory - based in Henan Province in Central China and the largest penicillin producer in the country - was reportedly ordered to suspend operation because of pollution problems.
Hong Kong-invested United Laboratories International Holdings Ltd also faces punishment and was ordered to reduce emission from its antibiotics raw material factory in Pengzhou of Sichuan Province.
(China Daily September 5, 2007)