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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Persistent organic pollutant (POP) emissions / Persistent organic pollutant (POP) emissions (APE 006) - Assessment published Dec 2011

Persistent organic pollutant (POP) emissions (APE 006) - Assessment published Dec 2011

Generic metadata

Topics:

Air pollution Air pollution (Primary topic)

Chemicals Chemicals

Industry Industry

Tags:
hcb | furans | polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons | pops | pcb | dioxins | air pollution indicators | air emissions | pah | hch | persistent organic pollutants | pollution
DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
Indicator codes
  • APE 006
Dynamic
Temporal coverage:
1990-2009
 
Contents
 

Key policy question: What progress is being made in reducing emissions of persistent organic pollutants?

Key messages

  • EEA-32 emissions of a number of compounds categorised as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), have decreased between 1990 and 2009 – e.g. hexachlorobenzene (HCB, by 92%), hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH, by 85%), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, by 75%), dioxins & furans (by 83%), and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs, by 61%). While the majority of countries report that POPs emissions have fallen during this period, a number do report that increased emissions have occurred.
  • In 2009, the most significant sources of emissions for these POPs included the ‘Commercial, institutional and households’ (10% of HCB, 32% of dioxins and furans, 16% of PCBs) and ‘Industrial processes’ (70% of HCB, 32% of HCH, 27% of PCBs) sectors.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Change (%) in HCB emissions 1990-2009 (EEA member countries)

Note: The reported change in hexachlorobenzene (HCB) emissions for each country, 1990-2009.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Change (%) in HCH emissions 1990-2009 (EEA member countries)

Note: The reported change in hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) emissions for each country, 1990-2009.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Change (%) in PCB emissions 1990-2009 (EEA member countries)

Note: The reported change in polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) emissions for each country, 1990-2009.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Change (%) in Dioxin & Furan emissions 1990-2009 (EEA member countries)

Note: The reported change in dioxin and furan emissions for each country, 1990-2009.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Change (%) in PAH emissions 1990-2009 (EEA member countries)

Note: The reported change in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) emissions for each country, 1990-2009.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Key assessment

In the EEA-32 region, emissions of PAHs have fallen by 61% between 1990 and 2009 (Figure 1). A combination of targeted legislation (for details see Indicator specification - policy context) coupled with improved controls and abatement techniques has led in general to significant progress being made in most countries to reduce PAH emissions (Figure 2).

While the majority of individual countries report decreased PAH emissions since 1990, there are six countries (Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Italy, Latvia and Portugal) in which increased emissions have occurred. Of these countries, the largest increase in emissions is reported by Denmark. One cause of the increased emissions in Denmark has been due to the introduction of policy measures that have encouraged the burning of renewable materials (e.g. wood) by Danish households. Wood-burning also produces PAHs, and hence in this instance policies that have been implemented to address one environmental issue (climate change) have had unintended consequences in terms of air pollution. In absolute terms however, emissions of PAHs from Denmark are relatively low compared to other countries. Of the EEA-32 group of countries, the largest PAH emissions are reported by Belgium and Spain, where emissions are more than 15 times greater than in Denmark.

Emissions of HCB have fallen sharply in the EEA-32 since 1990, mostly due to a drop in HCB emissions in the United Kingdom of 4.3 tonnes between 1998 and 1999, accounting for 98% of the decrease in 1999. This large decrease was due to the introduction of regulations in the UK to control the use of hexachloroethane (HCE) tablets as a degassing agent in secondary aluminium production. Across all EEA-32 countries, the decrease in 1999 accounts for 83% of the overall change in HCB emissions between 1990 and 2009, 58% of which is due to the fall in HCB emissions in the United Kingdom since 1990.

HCH emissions in EEA-32 countries have fallen overall by 86% from 1990 to 2009 (Figure 1), however one country (Belgium) has reported increases in emissions. Of this overall decrease in emissions, 39% may be accounted for by decreased emissions from the ‘Agriculture’ sector, 36% from 'Industrial processes' from ‘Non-road transport’, and 25% from 'Solvent and product use' from ‘Waste’. In 2009, 67% of emissions of HCH were from ‘Agriculture’ sources.

Emissions of PCBs in the EEA-32 have fallen 75% between 1990 and 2009, due mainly to reductions in ‘Industrial processes’ emissions, which accounted for 82% of the decrease over this period. PCBs emissions have risen from 1990 levels in one EEA-32 country (Portugal), whilst 19 countries reported lower emissions in 2009 than 1990, and the remaining 12 countries either did not report data, or reported zero emissions for 1990.

EEA-32 countries’ reported emissions of dioxins & furans show a decrease of 83% by 2009 when compared with 1990 levels. Of 28 countries which reported non-zero emissions, only one (Latvia) reported an increase in emissions from 1990 to 2009. The overall decrease in emissions across all EEA-32 countries was due to significantly reduced emissions from the ‘Waste’ sector (27% of overall decrease), 'Energy production and distribution' (25%) and 'Commercial, institutional and households' (21%). In 2009, 32% of dioxin and furan emission were from sources in the ‘Commercial, institutional and households’ sector, 19% from 'Waste' and 16% from 'Energy use in industry'.

Specific policy question: How do different sectors and processes contribute to emissions of persistent organic pollutants?

Sector split of emissions of selected POPs (EEA member countries)

Note: The contribution made by different sectors to emissions of: HCB - hexachlorobenzene, HCH - hexachlorocyclohexane, PCBs - polychlorinated biphenyls; dioxins & furans; and PAHs - polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Contribution to total change in PAH emissions for each sector between 1990 and 2009 (EEA member countries)

Note: The contribution made by each sector to the total change in emissions of selected persistent organic pollutants (POPs) between 1990 and 2009: HCB - hexachlorobenzene, HCH - hexachlorocyclohexane, PCBs - polychlorinated biphenyls; dioxins & furans; and PAHs - polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Specific assessment

Important emission sources of POPs typically include residential combustion processes (open fires, coal and wood burning for heating purposes etc), industrial metal production processes, and the road transport sector (Figure 4).

Emissions from each of these sources have in general 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 (Figure 4). In particular, the majority of the PAH emission reduction observed in Europe since 1990 has been due to reduced emissions from within the industrial processes sector (Figure 5). This reflects various initiatives designed to reduce the formation and emission of (unintended) POPs through improved process design, control and pollution abatement technology.

Data sources

More information about this indicator

See this indicator specification for more details.

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Martin Adams

Ownership

EEA Management Plan

2011 2.1.1 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 1 year in October-December (Q4)
Document Actions
European Environment Agency (EEA)
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Phone: +45 3336 7100