EEA-32 emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), an important group of chemicals categorised as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), have decreased by 63% between 1990 and 2007. While the majority of individual countries report PAH emissions have fallen during this period, eight countries report increased emissions have occurred.
Important emission sources of PAH, include residential combustion processes (open fires, coal and wood burning for heating purposes etc), industrial metal production processes, and the road transport sector. Emissions from these sources have all declined since 1990 as a result of decreased residential use of coal, improvements in abatement technologies for metal refining and smelting, and stricter regulations on emissions from the road transport sector.
In 2007, the most significant source of PAHs was the 'other energy' sector accounting for 41% of total PAH emissions. This sector comprises emissions caused by fuel combustion mainly from the residential, commercial and institutional buildings sectors.
Environmental context: Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are chemical substances that persist in the environment, have potential to bioaccumulate through the food web, and pose a risk of causing adverse effects to human health and the environment. This group of substances includes unintentional by-products of industrial processes (such as PAHs, dioxins and furans) pesticides (such as DDT), and industrial chemicals (such as polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs). All share the property of being progressively accumulated higher up the food chain, such that chronic exposure of lower organisms to much lower concentrations can expose predatory organisms, including humans and wildlife, to potentially harmful concentrations. In humans they are also of concern for human health because of their toxicity, their potential to cause cancer and their ability to cause harmful effects at low concentrations. Their relative toxic/carcinogenic potencies are compound specific. POPs have also been shown to possess a number of toxicological properties. The major concern is often centred on their possible role in carcinogenic, immunological and reproductive effects but more recently concern has also been expressed over their possible harmful effects on human development.
Data and maps
EEA32 Persistent organic pollutant (POP) emissions