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Persistent organic pollutant (POP) emissions

Indicator Specification Created 19 Aug 2010 Published 15 Oct 2010 Last modified 04 Oct 2013, 06:30 PM

Justification for indicator selection

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 sectors: Energy production and distribution; Energy use in industry;, Industrial processes; Road transport; Non-road transport; Commercial, institutional and households; Solvent and product use; Agriculture; Waste; Other.
  • Geographical coverage: EEA-32. The EEA-32 country grouping includes countries of the EU-27 (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) EFTA-4 (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway) and Turkey.
  • Temporal coverage: 1990-2010


Tonne (metric ton)

Policy context and targets

Context description

Coupled with improved control and abatement techniques, targeted EC legislation (directives and regulations) has led to strong progress by EEA-32 countries in reducing air emissions of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that include the PAH group of chemicals. Such legislation includes:

  • The 1998 UN/ECE Aarhus Protocol on POPs (to the 1979 Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP)) – ultimate objective is to eliminate any discharges, emissions and losses of POPs. The original 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). In 2009 the Protocol was updated to list commercial Pentabromodiphenyl (Penta-BDE) and commercial Octabromodiphenyl (Octa-BDE) as POP substances, whilst the POPs task force concluded that hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) met the criteria to be considered as a POP, and potential risk management options are therefore currently being considered for HBCD. 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.

  • 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. 12 POPs were covered under the original scope of the Convention:

    • Pesticides: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene;

    • Industrial chemicals: hexachlorobenzene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); and

    • By-products: hexachlorobenzene; polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/PCDF), and PCBs.

  • In May 2009, nine additional chemicals were added to the Convention:

    • Pesticides: chlordecone, alpha hexachlorocyclohexane, beta hexachlorocyclohexane, lindane, pentachlorobenzene;

    • Industrial chemicals: hexabromobiphenyl, hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether, pentachlorobenzene, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid, its salts and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride, tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether; and

    • By-products: alpha hexachlorocyclohexane, beta hexachlorocyclohexane and pentachlorobenzene

  • Regulation (EC) No. 850/2004 on Persistent Organic Pollutants entered into force on the 20th of May 2004. The main purpose of this Regulation is to enable the European Community to ratify the Stockholm Convention and the Aarhus Protocol. The Regulation also deals with stockpiles of redundant substances.

  • 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;

  • The Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (2008/1/EC) (replaces 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) to reduce emissions of heavy metals and POPs. Emissions of these substances are required to be estimated under the terms of the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) (166/2006/EC);

  • The CAFE Directive on Ambient Air Quality and Cleaner Air for Europe (2008/50/EC) (has repealed and replaced the 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 as it contain provisions and limit values for the further control of heavy metals and PAH in ambient air;

  • Directive 2000/76/EC on the Incineration of Waste contains limits on emissions of dioxins and furans from waste incineration processes. It also provides for member states to set limits on emissions of PAHs from waste incineration processes. During 2007 the Commission carried out a review of this Directive. It is proposed that the Waste Incineration Directive should be incorporated into a revised IPPC Directive, but this is unlikely to occur before 2013;

  • The Directive on the Limitation of Emissions of Certain Pollutants into the Air from Large Combustion Plants (2001/80/EC) – has has had the effect of reducing 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 Hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) Discharges (84/491/EEC); Dangerous Substances Directives (76/464/EC) and (86/280/EC); 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

Key policy question

What progress is being made in reducing emissions of persistent organic pollutants?

Specific policy question

How do different sectors and processes contribute to emissions of persistent organic pollutants?


Methodology for indicator calculation


This indicator is based on officially reported national total and sectoral emissions to EEA and 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 2011. For the EU-27 Member States, the data used is consistent with the emissions data reported by the EU in its annual submission to the LRTAP Convention.

Recommended methodologies for emission inventory estimation are compiled in the EMEP/EEA Air Pollutant Emission Inventory Guidebook, (EMEP/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 are available from the EEA Data Service (

Base data, reported in the UNECE/EMEP Nomenclature for Reporting (NFR) sector format are aggregated into the following EEA sector codes to obtain a consistent reporting format across all countries and pollutants:


  • Energy production and distribution: emissions from public heat and electricity generation, oil refining, production of solid fuels, extraction and distribution of solid fossil fuels and geothermal energy;
  • Energy use in industry: emissions from combustion processes used in the manufacturing industry including boilers, gas turbines and stationary engines;
  • Industrial 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;
  • Non-road transport: railways, domestic shipping, certain aircraft movements, and non-road mobile machinery used in agriculture & forestry;
  • Commercial, institutional and households: emissions principally occurring from fuel combustion in the services and household sectors;
  • Solvent and product use: 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;
  • Other: emissions included in national total for entire territory not allocated to any other sector


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

EEA classification

Non-GHGs (NFR)


National totals

National total


Energy production and distribution

1A1, 1A3e, 1B


Energy use in industry



Road Transport



Non-road transport (non-road mobile machinery)

1A3 (excl. 1A3b)


Industrial processes



Solvent and product use









Commercial, institutional and households

1A4ai, 1A4aii, 1A4bi, 1A4bii, 1A4ci, 1A4cii, 1A5a, 1A5b





Methodology for gap filling

An improved gap-filling methodology was implemented in 2010 that enables a complete time series trend for the main air pollutants (eg NOX, SOX, NMVOC, NH3 and CO) to be compiled. In cases where countries did not report emissions for any year, it meant that gap-filling could not be applied. For these pollutants, therefore, the aggregated data are not yet complete and are likely to underestimate true emissions. Further methodological details of the gap-filling procedure are provided in section 1.4.2 Data gaps and gap-filling of the European Union emission inventory report 1990–2009 under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP).

Methodology references

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.

Emissions of 'total PAH' reported by Poland for 2004 and 2005 were around a thousand times higher than expected. For the purposes of this assessment these data have therefore been adjusted by a factor of 10-3 to correct for this unit error.

Data sets 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. Emission estimates for the other POPs are also considered to be of high uncertainty. 

Rationale uncertainty

This indicator is regularly updated by EEA and is used in state of the environment assessments. The uncertainties related to methodology and data sets are therefore of importance. Any uncertainties involved in the calculation and in the data sets need to be accurately communicated in the assessment, to prevent erroneous messages influencing policy actions or processes.

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


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
APE 006
Version id: 2
Primary theme: Air pollution Air pollution


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Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year in October-December (Q4)


DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)

Geographic coverage


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