Personal tools

Notifications
Get notifications on new reports and products. Frequency: 3-4 emails / month.
Subscriptions
Sign up to receive our reports (print and/or electronic) and quarterly e-newsletter.
Follow us
Twitter icon Twitter
Facebook icon Facebook
YouTube icon YouTube channel
RSS logo RSS Feeds
More

Write to us Write to us

For the public:


For media and journalists:

Contact EEA staff
Contact the web team
FAQ

Call us Call us

Reception:

Phone: (+45) 33 36 71 00
Fax: (+45) 33 36 71 99


next
previous
items

Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Sound and independent information
on the environment

You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Persistent organic pollutant (POP) emissions / Persistent organic pollutant (POP) emissions (APE 006) - Assessment published Dec 2012

Persistent organic pollutant (POP) emissions (APE 006) - Assessment published Dec 2012

Generic metadata

Topics:

Air pollution Air pollution (Primary topic)

Chemicals Chemicals

Industry Industry

Tags:
pops | furans | polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons | hcb | 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:
1990-2010
 
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 2010, including hexachlorobenzene (HCB) by 91%, hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) by 93%, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) by 74%, dioxins & furans by 83%, and poly-aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) by 52%. While the majority of individual countries report that POP emissions have fallen during this period, a number report that increases in emissions of one or more pollutants have occurred.
  • In 2010, the most significant sources of emissions for these POPs included the sectors 'Commercial, institutional and households' (11% of HCB, 37% of dioxins and furans, 18% of PCB emissions) and 'Industrial processes' (70% of HCB, 66% of HCH, 28% of PCBs).
  • 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 for biomagnification 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 bioaccumulation in lower organisms to relatively low concentrations can expose higher consumer organisms, including humans, 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, but in general the major concerns are centred on their possible role in causing cancer, neurobehavioral, immunological and reproductive disorders. More recently concern has also been expressed over their possible harmful effects on human development.

Change (%) in HCB emissions 1990-2010 (EEA member countries)

Note: The reported change in hexachlorobenzene (HCB) emissions for each country, 1990-2010.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Change (%) in HCH emissions 1990-2010 (EEA member countries)

Note: The reported change in hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) emissions for each country, 1990-2010.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Change (%) in PCB emissions 1990-2010 (EEA member countries)

Note: The reported change in polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) emissions for each country, 1990-2010.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Change (%) in Dioxin & Furan emissions 1990-2010 (EEA member countries)

Note: The reported change in dioxin and furan emissions for each country, 1990-2010.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Change (%) in PAH emissions 1990-2010 (EEA member countries)

Note: The reported change in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) emissions for each country, 1990-2010.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Key assessment

In the EEA-32 region, emissions of PAHs have fallen by 52% between 1990 and 2010 (Figure 1). A combination of targeted legislation, details of which are set out in the 'Indicator specification - policy context' section, coupled with improved controls and abatement techniques has led in general to significant progress being made in most countries to reduce PAH emissions (Figure 2-6).

While the majority of individual countries report decreased PAH emissions since 1990, there are six countries (Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Italy, Latvia and Lithuania) in which emissions have increased by 10% or more. Of these countries, emissions in Denmark and Iceland have more than doubled since 1990. One cause of these increased emissions 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 produces emissions of 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, emissions of PAHs from both countries are relatively low compared to other countries, but the effect on local population and environmental quality may nevertheless be notable. Of the EEA-32 group of countries, the largest PAH emissions are reported by Spain and Germany, where emissions are more than 11 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 EEA-32 emissions 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 91% of the overall change in HCB emissions between 1990 and 2010. 64% of the reduction across all EEA-32 countries since 1990 is due to the fall in HCB emissions in the United Kingdom since 1990.

HCH emissions in EEA-32 countries have fallen overall by 93% from 1990 to 2010 (Figure 1); only Belgium has reported increases in emissions. Of the overall decrease in emissions, 45% may be accounted for by decreased emissions from the 'Agriculture' sector, 33% from 'Industrial processes', and 23% from 'Solvent and product use'. In 2010, 33% of emissions of HCH were from 'Agriculture' sources.

Emissions of PCBs in the EEA-32 have fallen 74% between 1990 and 2010, due mainly to reductions in 'Industrial processes' emissions, which accounted for 85% of the decrease over this period. Within the EEA-32, the only countries in which PCB emissions have risen from 1990 levels are Estonia, Portugal and Sweden. 18 countries reported lower emissions in 2010 than 1990, and the remaining 11 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 2010 when compared with 1990 levels. Of 30 countries which reported non-zero emissions, only Latvia and Liechtenstein reported an increase in emissions from 1990 to 2010. The overall decrease in emissions across all EEA-32 countries was due to significantly reduced emissions from the 'Energy production and distribution' sector (29% of overall decrease), 'Waste' (23%) and 'Commercial, institutional and households' (20%). In 2010, 37% of dioxin and furan emissions were from sources in the sectors 'Commercial, institutional and households', 18.2% from 'Energy use in industry' and 18.0% from 'Waste'.

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

Contribution to total change in PAH emissions for each sector between 1990 and 2010 (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 2010: HCB - hexachlorobenzene, HCH - hexachlorocyclohexane, PCBs - polychlorinated biphenyls; dioxins & furans; and PAHs - polyaromatic hydrocarbons.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Sector split of emissions of selected POPs in 2010 (EEA member countries)

Note: The contribution made by different sectors in 2010 to emissions of: 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 5).

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 4). 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

2012 1.1.2 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled every 1 year in October-December (Q4)
Document Actions
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100