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EEA32 Heavy metal (HM) emissions

Indicator Assessment Created 13 Jan 2010 Published 15 Feb 2010 Last modified 03 Sep 2015, 07:17 PM
Note: new version is available!
Indicator codes: APE 005

Key messages

  • Across the EEA-32 countries, emissions of lead have decreased by 88%, mercury by 57% and lead by cadmium by 56% between 1990 and 2007. For each substance, the most significant sources in 2007 are from energy-related sources associated with fuel combustion, particularly from public power and heat generating facilities and in industrial facilities.
  • Much progress has been made since the early 1990s in reducing point source emissions of cadmium and lead (e.g. emissions from industrial facilities). This has been achieved through improvements in for example abatement technologies for wastewater treatment, incinerators and in metal refining and smelting industries, and in some countries by the closure of older industrial facilities as a consequence of economic re-structuring.
  • In the case of mercury, the observed decrease in emissions may be largely attributed to improved controls on mercury cells used in industrial processes (e.g. in the chlor-alkali process) including the replacement of old mercury cells by diaphragm or membrane cells, and the general decline of coal use across Europe as a result of fuel switching.
  • The promotion of unleaded petrol within the EU and in other EEA member countries through a combination of fiscal and regulatory measures has been a particular success story. EU Member States have for example completely phased out the use of leaded petrol, a goal that was regulated by Directive 98/70/EC. From being the largest source of lead in 1990 when it contributed more than 70% of total emissions, emissions from the road transport sector decreased since then by more than 95%. Nevertheless, the road transport sector still remains an important source of lead, contributing around 25% of total lead emission in the EEA-32 region. However over the last 5 year period little progress has been made in reducing emissions further; total emissions of lead have remained largely constant.
  • Environmental context: Heavy metals (such as cadmium, lead and mercury) are recognised as being toxic to biota. All have the quality 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, to potentially harmful concentrations. In humans they are also of direct concern because of their toxicity, their potential to cause cancer and their potential ability to cause harmful effects at low concentrations. The relative toxic/carcinogenic potencies of heavy metals are compound specific. Specifically, exposure to heavy metals has been linked with developmental retardation, various cancers and kidney damage. Metals are persistent throughout the environment, and cadmium, lead and mercury are among those heavy metals that are already a focus of international and EU action. These substances tend not just to be confined to a given geographical region, and thus are not always open to effective local control. For example, in the case of cadmium, much is found in fine particles which do not readily dry deposit, rather having long residence times in the atmosphere and hence are subject to long-range transport processes.

What progress is being made in reducing emissions of heavy metals?

Change (%) in cadmium emissions 1990-2007 (EEA member countries)

Note: Change in cadmium emissions

Data source:

EEA aggregated and gap-filled air emission dataset, based on 2009 officially reported national total and sectoral emissions to UNECE LRTAP Convention.

Downloads and more info

Change (%) in mercury emissions 1990-2007 (EEA member countries)

Note: Change in mercury emissions

Data source:

EEA aggregated and gap-filled air emission dataset, based on 2009 officially reported national total and sectoral emissions to UNECE LRTAP Convention.

Downloads and more info

Change (%) in lead emissions 1990-2007 (EEA member countries)

Note: Change in lead emissions

Data source:

EEA aggregated and gap-filled air emission dataset, based on 2009 officially reported national total and sectoral emissions to UNECE LRTAP Convention.

Downloads and more info

In the EEA-32 region, emissions of emissions of lead have decreased by 88%, mercury by 57% and cadmium by 56% between 1990 and 2007 (Figure 1). A combination of targeted legislation (for details see Indicator specification - policy context) coupled with improved controls and abatement techniques has in general led to significant progress being made in most countries to reduce heavy metal emissions (Figure 2, Figure 3 and Figure 4).

Cadmium

EEA-32 emissions of cadmium have declined by 56% between 1990 and 2007. This is largely due to improvements in abatement technologies for wastewater treatment, incinerators and in metal refining and smelting facilities, coupled with the effect of EC directives and regulations mandating reductions in heavy metal emissions (e.g. the IPPC directive and associated permitting conditions).

A number of countries have achieved significant emission reductions in excess of 75% since 1990 (Figure 2). Countries that have reported the largest percentage reductions include Luxemburg (-92%), the UK (-87%), Estonia (-85%), Finland (-83%) and France (-82%). The largest emitters of cadmium in 2007 were Poland (responsible for 33% of total EEA-32 emissions), Spain (15%), Slovakia (8%), Italy (7%), the Czech Republic (6%) and Portugal (5%).

Mercury

EEA-32 emissions of mercury have declined by 57% between 1990 and 2007. This is attributed to in e.g. the industrial sector on improved controls on mercury cells and their replacement by diaphragm or membrane cells, in the power and heat generating sectors by the decline of coal use caused by fuel-switching in many countries from coal to gas and other energy sources, and coupled again with the effect of various EC directives and regulations mandating reductions in heavy metal emissions.

As with cadmium, a number of countries have made substantial cuts in emissions since 1990. This includes Latvia (-92%), Switzerland (-84%), Netherlands (-81%), the UK (-81%) and Germany (-80%). Emissions for a small number of countries (Cyprus, Malta and Slovenia) have increased during this period (Figure 3).

Lead

EEA-32 emissions of lead have declined by 88% between 1990 and 2007. This is primarily due to reductions made by countries in the road transport sector. The promotion of unleaded petrol within the EU through a combination of fiscal and regulatory measures has been a particular success story. EU Member States and other EEA member countries have now phased out the use of leaded petrol, a goal that was regulated in the EU by the Directive on the Quality of Petrol and Diesel Fuels (98/70/EC).

In 2007 the largest emitters of lead were Poland (responsible for 20% of total EEA-32 emissions), Spain (10%), Italy (10%) and Bulgaria (9%). All countries report lower emissions of lead in 2007 compared with the year 1990, with the only exceptions being Malta and Bulgaria (Figure 4).

How do different sectors and processes contribute to emissions of heavy metals?

Sector split of emissions of selected heavy metals (EEA member countries)

Note: Sector split of HM

Data source:

EEA aggregated and gap-filled air emission dataset, based on 2009 officially reported national total and sectoral emissions to UNECE LRTAP Convention.

Downloads and more info

Change in cadmium, mercury and lead emissions for each sector between 1990 and 2007 (EEA member countries)

Note: Change in heavy metals

Data source:

EEA aggregated and gap-filled air emission dataset, based on 2009 officially reported national total and sectoral emissions to UNECE LRTAP Convention.

Downloads and more info

For the heavy metals cadmium, mercury and lead, the most significant emissions sources in 2007 were from energy-related sources associated with fuel combustion, particularly from public power and heat generating facilities and from energy combustion in industrial facilities (Figure 5).

As noted earlier, for lead the promotion of unleaded petrol within the EU and in other EEA member countries through a combination of fiscal and regulatory measures has been a key success story within Europe. The large reduction of lead emissions from the road transport sector (of more than 95%) has been responsible for the vast majority of the overall reduction of lead emissions since 1990. Nevertheless, the road transport sector still remains an important source of lead, contributing around 25% of total lead emission in the EEA-32 region. Residual lead in fuel, from engine lubricants and parts, and from tyre and brake wear contribute to the ongoing lead emissions from this sector.

Lead and cadmium emissions have also both decreased from certain industrial processes eg from metal refining and smelting activities, reflecting improved pollution abatement control, and in some countries being a result of economic restructuring and the closure of older and more polluting industrial facilities.

For mercury, since 1990 the largest reduction (in absolute terms) has been achieved by the energy industries sector i.e. public power and heat generation. Mercury emissions from this sector are closely linked to the use of coal, which contains mercury as a contaminant. Past changes in fuel use within this sector since 1990, particularly fuel switching in many countries from coal to gas and other energy sources, closure of older inefficient coal-burning plants, and improved pollution abatement equipment etc are mainly responsible for the past decreases in emissions from this sector.

Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

  • The indicator tracks trends since 1990 in anthropogenic emissions of heavy metals.
  • The indicator also provides information on emissions by sectors: Energy industries; road and other transport; industry (processes and energy); other (energy); fugitive emissions; waste; agriculture and other (non energy).
  • Geographical coverage: EEA-32 (EU-27 Member States, EFTA-4 countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland) and Turkey)
  • Temporal coverage: 1990-2007
  • Units

    Tons (metric tonnes)


    Policy context and targets

    Context description

    Coupled with improved control and abatement techniques, targeted international and EU legislation (directives and regulations) has led to good progress in most EEA-32 countries in reducing heavy metal emissions. Such legislation includes:

    • the 1998 Aarhus Protocol on Heavy Metals (to the 1979 UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP)) - targets three particularly harmful substances: cadmium, mercury and lead;
    • within the EU, the Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control  (96/61/EC) aims to prevent or minimise pollution of water, air and soil by industrial effluent and other waste from industrial installations, including energy industries, by defining basic obligations for operating licences or permits and by introducing targets, or benchmarks, for energy efficiency.  It also requires the application of Best Available Techniques (BAT) in new installations from now on (and for existing plants over the next 10 years according to national legislation) which will also help to reduce emissions of heavy metals and POPs. The IPPC Directive is presently under review, together with various related legislation, including the LCP and Waste Incineration directives. Emissions of a number of heavy metals released from certain industrial facilities are also estimated and reported under the requirements of the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register Regulation (E-PRTR) (166/2006/EC).
    • the Directive on the Limitation of Emissions of Certain Pollutants into the Air from Large Combustion Plants (2001/80/EC) - has acted to limit heavy metal emissions via dust control and absorption of heavy metals;
    • the CAFE Directive on Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe (2008/50/EC) has replaced the earlier Directive 96/62/EC on Ambient Air Quality Assessment and Management and three of its daughter directives 99/30/EC, 2000/69/EC, 2002/3/EC. Its fourth daughter directive (2004/107/EC) still remains in force and contains provisions and limit values for the further control of arsenic, cadmium, mercury, nickel and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ambient air;

    There are also a number of specific EU environmental quality standards and emission standards for heavy metals and POPs for these substances in coastal and inland waters, drinking waters etc. These have only indirect relevance to air emissions as they do not directly specify emission or precipitation quality requirements, but rather specify the required quality of receiving waters. Such measures include for example, the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC). Other measures including restrictions on the use of heavy metals in certain consumer products, such as the EC Regulation on the Banning of Exports of Metallic Mercury and Certain Mercury Compounds and Mixtures and the Safe Storage of Metallic Mercury (1102/2008) and Directive 2007/51/EC amending Council Directive 7/769/EEC relating to Restrictions on the Marketing of Certain Measuring Devices Containing Mercury.

    Finally, a February 2009 UNEP Governing Council decision has established the framework for a new global treaty on mercury.

    Targets

    The HM protocol to the UNECE LRTAP Convention obliges Parties to reduce their emissions of cadmium, lead and mercury from the level of emissions in 1990 (or an alternative year from 1985 to 1995 inclusive).

    Related policy documents

    Methodology

    Methodology for indicator calculation

    Indicator is based on officially reported national total and sectoral emissions to UNECE/EMEP (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe/Co-operative programme for monitoring and evaluation of the long-range transmission of air pollutants in Europe) Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention), submission 2009. Recommended methodologies for emission inventory estimation are compiled in the EMEP/CORINAIR Atmospheric Emission Inventory guidebook, EEA Copenhagen (EEA, 2009). Base data are available from the EEA Data Service (http://dataservice.eea.europa.eu/dataservice/metadetails.asp?id=1096) and the EMEP web site (http://www.ceip.at/). Where necessary, gaps in reported data are filled by ETC/ACC using simple interpolation techniques (see below). The final gap-filled data used in this indicator is available from the EEA Data Service (http://dataservice.eea.europa.eu/dataservice/metadetails.asp?id=1058).

     This base data, reported in SNAP, draft NFR or NFR are aggregated into the following EEA sector codes to obtain a common reporting format across all countries and pollutants:

    • 'Energy industries': emissions from public heat and electricity generation, oil refining and production of solid fuels;
    • 'Fugitive emissions': Emissions from extraction and distribution of solid fossil fuels and geothermal energy;
    • 'Industry (Energy)': emissions from combustion processes used in the manufacturing industry including boilers, gas turbines and stationary engines;
    • 'Industry (Processes)': emissions derived from non-combustion related processes such as the production of minerals, chemicals and metal production;
    • 'Road transport': light and heavy duty vehicles, passenger cars and motorcycles;
    • 'Off-road transport': railways, domestic shipping, certain aircraft movements, and non-road mobile machinery used in agriculture & forestry;
    • 'Other (energy-related)' emissions principally occurring from fuel combustion in the services and household sectors;
    • 'Other (Non Energy)': non-combustion related emissions mainly in the services and households sectors including activities such as paint application, dry-cleaning and other use of solvents;
    • 'Agriculture': manure management, fertiliser application, field-burning of agricultural wastes
    • 'Waste': incineration, waste-water management;
    • 'Unallocated': The difference between the reported national total and the sum of the sectors reported by a country.

    The 'unallocated' sector corresponds to the difference between the reported national total and the sum of the reported sectors for a given pollutant / country / year combination. It can be either negative or positive. Inclusion of this additional sector means that the officially reported national totals do not require adjustment to ensure that they are consistent with the sum of the individual sectors reported by countries.

    The following table shows the conversion of Nomenclature for Reporting (NFR) sector codes used for reporting by countries into EEA sector codes:

    EEA classification

    NFR Emission Source Category

    0 National totals

    National total

    1 Energy Industries

    1A1

    3 Industry (energy)

    1A2

    2 Fugitive emissions

    1B

    7 Road transport

    1A3b

    8 Other transport (non-road mobile machinery)

    1A3 (exl 1A3b)

    9 Industry processes

    2

    4 Agriculture

    4 + 5B

    5 Waste

    6

    6 Other (energy)

    1A4a, 1A4b, 1A4b(i), 1A4c(i), 1A5a

    10 Other (non-energy)

    3 + 7

    12 Energy industries (power and heat production)

    1A1a

    14 Unallocated

    Difference between national total and sum of sectors (1 - 10)

    Methodology for gap filling

    To allow trend analysis, where countries have not reported data for one or more years, data in the 'EEA aggregated and gap-filled air emission dataset' has been interpolated to derive the emissions for the missing year or years. If the reported data is missing either at the beginning or at the end of the period, the emission value is assumed to equal the first or last reported value. The use of gap-filling may lead to artificial trends, but it is considered necessary if a comprehensive and comparable set of emissions data for European countries is to be obtained. A spreadsheet containing a record of the gap-filled data is available from EEA's European Topic Centre on Air and Climate Change (ETC/ACC) (http://air-climate.eionet.europa.eu/)

    Methodology references

    No methodology references available.

    Uncertainties

    Methodology uncertainty

    The use of gap-filling for when countries have not reported emissions for one of more years can potentially lead to artificial trends, but it is considered unavoidable if a comprehensive and comparable set of emissions data for European countries is required for policy analysis purposes.

    Data sets uncertainty

    The lead inventory is more uncertain than SO2 and NOx inventories, and the certainty of the emissions varies over the time-series as different source sectors dominate at different times due to the very significant reductions in emissions from the key sources in 1990, notably road transport. From the key sources in 1990, the lead emission estimates were based on measured concentrations of lead in the fuels, which were tightly regulated prior to being phased out in the late 1990s. This gives a high confidence in the estimates for those sources of fuel combustion which dominated in the early 1990s, but are now much reduced.  In the more recent years, the level of emissions is estimated to be very much lower, and derived from a smaller number of sources. The metal processing industries are mainly regulated under IPPC and hence the estimates provided by plant operators are based on emission measurements or emission factors that have been researched for the specific process type, and hence are likely to be quite certain. The emissions from other smaller-scale combustion and process sources from industrial and commercial activities are less well documented and the estimates are based on emission factors that are less certain.

    References

    Rationale uncertainty

    No uncertainty has been specified

    Data sources

    Generic metadata

    Topics:

    Air pollution Air pollution (Primary topic)

    Chemicals Chemicals

    Industry Industry

    Tags:
    mercury | lead | heavy metals | cadmium | air pollution indicators | air emissions | pollution
    DPSIR: Pressure
    Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
    Indicator codes
    • APE 005
    Dynamic
    Temporal coverage:
    1990-2007, 2009
    Geographic coverage:
    Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom

    Contacts and ownership

    EEA Contact Info

    Martin Adams

    Ownership

    EEA Management Plan

    2010 (note: EEA internal system)

    Dates

    European Environment Agency (EEA)
    Kongens Nytorv 6
    1050 Copenhagen K
    Denmark
    Phone: +45 3336 7100