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EEA32 Persistent organic pollutant (POP) emissions

Indicator Specification Created 14 Sep 2009 Published 15 Feb 2010 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 06:59 PM
Note: new version is available!
Indicator codes: APE 006

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments


Justification for indicator selection

Environmental context: POPs (including PAHs) are recognised as being directly 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 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 including PAHs have also been shown to possess a number of toxicological properties. The major concern is 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.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

  • The indicator tracks trends since 1990 in anthropogenic emissions of persistent organic pollutants. Emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are presently described, other POP compounds will be added in the future.
  • The indicator also provides information on emissions by sector: 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 air emissions of PAHs (and a number of other POPs in general). Such legislation includes:

    • the 1998 Aarhus Protocol on POPs (to the 1979 UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP))  - ultimate objective is to eliminate any discharges, emissions and losses of POPs. The Protocol bans the production and use of some products outright (aldrin, chlordane, chlordecone, dieldrin, endrin, hexabromobiphenyl, mirex and toxaphene), with others scheduled for elimination at a later stage (DDT, heptachlor, hexaclorobenzene, PCBs). Finally, the Protocol severely restricts the use of DDT, HCH (including lindane) and PCBs. The Protocol includes provisions for dealing with the wastes of products that will be banned.  It also obliges Parties to reduce their emissions of dioxins, furans, PAHs and HCB below their levels in 1990 (or an alternative year between 1985 and 1995). For the incineration of municipal, hazardous and medical waste, it lays down specific limit values. Various elements of the protocol were revised at the end of 2009;
    • the 2001 UNEP Stockholm Convention on POPs - aims to reduce and ultimately cease manufacture, use, storage and emissions of POPs, as well as destroying existing stocks; provides for measures to reduce or eliminate emissions resulting from intentional and unintentional production and use; plans to meet the obligations; technical and financial assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition; cooperate and exchange information;
    • EC Communication on a Community Strategy for Dioxins, Furans and PCBs (COM (2001) 593 final) - aims to assess current state of the environment and to reduce human exposure and long term environmental effects. The Communication does not propose legislative measures, but could be the basis for a Community action plan;
    • within the EU, the Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) (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 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 (see also below).  Emissions of many substances including various POPs are required to be estimated under the terms of the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register Regulation (E-PRTR) (166/2006/EC);
    • 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 as it contain provisions and limit values for the further control of certain heavy metals and PAHs in ambient air;
    • Directive 2000/76/EC on the Incineration of Waste;
    • 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 and PAH emissions via dust control and absorption;

    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). 


    As noted above, the POPs protocol to the UNECE LRTAP Convention obliges Parties to reduce their emissions of dioxins, furans, PAHs and HCB below their levels in 1990 (or an alternative year between 1985 and 1995 inclusive).

    Related policy documents


    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 ( and the EMEP web site ( 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 (

     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


    3 Industry (energy)


    2 Fugitive emissions


    7 Road transport


    8 Other transport (non-road mobile machinery)

    1A3 (exl 1A3b)

    9 Industry processes


    4 Agriculture

    4 + 5B

    5 Waste


    6 Other (energy)

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

    10 Other (non-energy)

    3 + 7

    12 Energy industries (power and heat production)


    14 Unallocated

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


    Methodology for gap filling

    Methodology of data manipulation: EEA/ETC-ACC gap-filling methodology. To allow trend analysis where countries have not reported data for one or several years, data has been interpolated to derive annual emissions. If the reported data is missing either at the beginning or at the end of the time series period, the emission value has been considered to equal the first (or last) reported emission value. It is recognised that the use of gap-filling 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.

    Methodology references

    No methodology references available.

    Data specifications

    EEA data references

    Data sources in latest figures


    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

    Not quantified.

    Rationale uncertainty

    Uncertainties in the emission estimates of PAHs reported by countries are considered to be higher than for other more 'traditional' air pollutants such as NOx and SO2 due to the relatively higher uncertainties that exist in both activity data and emission factors for this group of pollutants.

    Further work

    Short term work

    Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

    Long term work

    Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

    General metadata

    Responsibility and ownership

    EEA Contact Info

    Martin Adams


    No owners.


    Indicator code
    APE 006
    Version id: 1
    Primary theme: Air pollution Air pollution


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    DPSIR: Pressure
    Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
    European Environment Agency (EEA)
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