June 13, 2024
South Korea Methyl Methacrylate

South Korea Methyl Methacrylate Market: South Korea Grapples with Methyl Methacrylate Crisis

South Korea Methyl Methacrylate Market Production and Use

Methyl methacrylate (MMA) is an important chemical feedstock and monomer widely used in the production of plastics and resins in South Korea. Major industries that utilize MMA include construction, automotive, shipbuilding, and electronics. South Korea is one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of MMA with an annual production capacity of over 2 million metric tons as of 2020. The bulk of MMA is produced domestically by conglomerates such as LG Chem, Lotte Chemical, and Kumho Petrochemical through the chemical synthesis of isobutylene and methacrylic acid.

Health and Environmental Impacts of MMA

While Methyl Methacrylate plays a crucial role in many industries, concerns have been raised about its potential health and environmental impacts. MMA is a volatile organic compound that easily evaporates at room temperature. Inhalation or skin exposure to MMA vapor or mist can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Prolonged or high exposure may damage the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. MMA is also known to harm aquatic life and has been classified as hazardous to the environment by various agencies. Its vapor persists in the air and has the potential to contaminate soil and water sources if not handled and disposed of properly.

Rising Cases of MMA-induced Illnesses

Starting in the late 2010s, South Korea witnessed a spike in cases of illnesses linked to occupational and environmental exposure to MMA. Many of the reported illnesses involved workers at fiberglass-reinforced plastic manufacturing plants where MMA is widely used as a resin. Common symptoms experienced by victims included headache, dizziness, nausea, breathing difficulties and skin problems. In some severe cases, people suffered from mental disorders, impaired vision and mobility issues. The incidents drew widespread public attention and criticism over lax regulations on the safe use and emission control of MMA.

Government Response and Crackdown

In response to the crisis, the South Korean government launched multiple initiatives and investigations to address the root causes. Workplace exposure limits for MMA were lowered significantly and strict emission guidelines were put in place for relevant industries. Manufacturing facilities failing to upgrade equipment to meet new standards faced stiff penalties and temporary shut downs. Monitoring of air and water pollution levels near industrial clusters was intensified. Initiatives were also launched to improve medical diagnosis and care for MMA victims. However, complaints persisted of incomplete compensation, lack of long-term health management, and problems identifying causality between illnesses and MMA exposure in some cases.

Changes in Production and Usage Patterns

Faced with growing public backlash and regulatory crackdown, South Korean petrochemical firms were compelled to modify their MMA production and usage practices. Many bolstered pollution control technologies and occupational safety measures at manufacturing plants. Alternatives to open-air MMA applications were explored wherever feasible. Some companies even relocated or downsized certain MMA-reliant operations. There was a modest shift towards importing MMA to make up for capacity reductions within South Korea. Efforts were also made to develop less toxic substitutes for MMA in plastics and resins though full replacements remain limited so far.

Lingering Concerns about South Korea Methyl Methacrylate Market

Despite government efforts, MMA-related health issues and environmental pollution remain a concern in South Korea. Chronic, low-level exposure is still difficult to assess and link conclusively to individual illnesses. Victim support groups allege underreporting of cases and question the efficacy of remediation efforts. Incidents of illegal discharges and workplace accidents continue to surface occasionally.

In Summary, meanwhile, South Korea’s status as a major MMA producer and consumer means the chemical will still be widely used for the foreseeable future. Both regulators and industry experts acknowledge ongoing challenges balancing economic needs with public health and environmental protection. AchievinSouth Korea Methyl Methacrylateg a sustainable long-term solution to South Korea’s MMA crisis will require persistent multi-stakeholder cooperation.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it