Persistent organic pollutant emissions

Indicator Assessment
Prod-ID: IND-170-en
Also known as: APE 006
expired Created 20 Jan 2015 Published 01 Jul 2015 Last modified 28 Jan 2016, 12:09 PM
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Emissions of a number of compounds categorised as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) - 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%) - decreased between 1990 and 2012 in the EEA-33 countries. While the majority of countries report that POPs emissions fell during this period, a number report that increased emissions occurred. In 2012, the most significant sources of emissions for these POPs included ‘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.

Key messages

  • Emissions of a number of compounds categorised as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) - 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%) - decreased between 1990 and 2012 in the EEA-33 countries. While the majority of countries report that POPs emissions fell during this period, a number report that increased emissions occurred.
  • In 2012, the most significant sources of emissions for these POPs included ‘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.

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

Change in hexachlorobenzene emissions

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Change in hexachlorocyclohexane emissions

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Change in polychlorinated biphenyl emissions

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Change in dioxin and furan emissions

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Change in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons emissions

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In the EEA-33 region, emissions of PAHs have fallen by 58% between 1990 and 2011 (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 6).

While the majority of individual countries report decreased PAH emissions since 1990, there are five countries (Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Italy and Liechtenstein) in which emissions have increased by 10% or more. Of these countries, emissions in Denmark and Iceland have risen by more than 50% since 1990, although in both cases emissions have been falling since 2007. 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-33 group of countries, the most PAH emissions are reported by Spain and Germany, where emissions are more than 12 times greater than in Denmark.

Emissions of HCB have fallen sharply in the EEA-33 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-33 emissions decrease in 1999 (Figure 2). 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. 63% of the reduction across all EEA-33 countries since 1990 is due to the fall in HCB emissions in the United Kingdom, from 61% of EEA-33 emissions in 1990, to just 11% in 2011.

HCH emissions in EEA-33 countries have fallen overall by 95% from 1990 to 2011 (Figure 1); only Belgium has reported increases in emissions (Figure 3). Of the overall decrease in emissions, 47% may be accounted for by decreased emissions from the 'Agriculture' sector, 32% from 'Industrial processes', and 22% from 'Solvent and product use'. In 2011, 23% of emissions of HCH were from 'Agriculture' sources (Figure 7).

Emissions of PCBs in the EEA-33 have fallen by 73% between 1990 and 2011, due mainly to reductions in 'Industrial processes' emissions, which accounted for 68% of the decrease over this period (Figure 7). Within the EEA-33, the only countries in which PCB emissions have risen from 1990 levels are Portugal and Malta (Figure 4). 21 countries reported lower emissions in 2011 than 1990, and the remaining 10 countries either did not report data, or reported zero emissions for 1990.

EEA-33 countries' reported emissions of dioxins & furans show a decrease of 84% by 2011 when compared with 1990 levels. Of the 31 countries which reported non-zero emissions, only Bulgaria, Latvia and Liechtenstein reported an increase in emissions from 1990 to 2011 (Figure 5). The overall decrease in emissions across all EEA-33 countries was due to significantly reduced emissions from the 'Energy production and distribution' sector (30% of overall decrease), 'Waste' (22%) and 'Commercial, institutional and households' (21%) (Figure 7). In 2011, 39% of dioxin and furan emissions were from sources in the 'Commercial, institutional and households' sector, 18.9% from 'Energy use in industry' and 15.2% from 'Waste' (Figure 8).

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

Share of emissions of selected persistent organic pollutants by sector

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Important emission sources of persistent organic pollutants (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.

Commercial, institutional and households: Current emissions from ‘Commercial, Institutional and Household’ sources account for two thirds of total PAH emissions and nearly half of the total Dioxin and Furan emissions for the EEA-33. Emissions from households have declined since 1990 as a result of the decreased residential use of coal.

Industrial processes: Industrial processes account for over a third of the PCB emissions in the EEA-33, but current emissions from this sector have decreased by over 80% since 1990. Reductions in POPs emissions in the industrial processes sector have arisen as a result of improvements in abatement technologies for metal refining and smelting.

Road transport: Road transport emissions do not make particularly large contributions to POPs total emissions in the EEA-33. However, emissions have substantially reduced since 1990 levels due to stricter regulations on emissions from road vehicles.

Indicator specification and metadata

Indicator definition

  • This indicator tracks trends since 1990 in anthropogenic emissions of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are currently described, while other POP compounds will be added in the future.
  • The indicator also provides information on emissions by sector: 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-33. The EEA-33 country grouping includes countries of the EU-28 (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom), EFTA-4 (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway) and Turkey.
  • Temporal coverage: 1990-2014.

Units

Tonne (metric ton)


Policy context and targets

Context description

Targeted EC legislation (directives and regulations), coupled with improved control and abatement techniques, have led to strong progress by the EEA-33 countries in reducing air emissions of POPs, including the PAH group of chemicals. Such legislation includes:

  • The 1998 UNECE Aarhus Protocol on POPs (to the 1979 Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP)). The ultimate objective of this protocol 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 it. Finally, the protocol severely restricts the use of DDT, HCH (including lindane) and PCBs, and 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 to below their 1990 levels (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 the manufacture, use, storage and emission of POPs, as well as to destroy existing stocks. It provides for measures to reduce or eliminate emissions resulting from intentional and unintentional production and use. It also plans to meet the obligations on technical and financial assistance to developing countries and countries with economies in transition, and to 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

 

Targets

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 1990 levels (or an alternative year between 1985 and 1995 inclusive).

Related policy documents

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

This indicator is based on officially reported national total and sectoral emissions to the 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 2015. For the EU-28 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, 2016). Base data is available from the EEA Data Service and the EMEP web site. Where necessary, gaps in reported data are filled by the European Topic Centre for Air and Climate Change using simple interpolation techniques (see below). The final gap-filled data used in this indicator is available from the EEA Data Service.

Indicator specification and metadata

Base data, reported in the UNECE/EMEP Nomenclature for Reporting (NFR14) sector format, is 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 and 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 totals for the 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

1A2

Road transport

1A3b

Non-road transport (non-road mobile machinery)

1A3 (excl. 1A3b)

Industrial processes and product use

2

 

 

Agriculture

4

Waste

6

Commercial, institutional and households

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

Other

7

 

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 (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 is not yet complete and is 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

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

The use of gap filling in instances where 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

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 the 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.

Data sources

Generic metadata

Topics:

Air pollution Air pollution (Primary topic)

Industry Industry

Tags:
pops | furans | air pollution | polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons | hcb | pcb | dioxins | air pollution indicators | air emissions | pah | hch | persistent organic pollutants | dioxins and furans | pollution
DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)
Indicator codes
  • APE 006
Dynamic
Temporal coverage:
1990-2011
Geographic coverage:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, 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, United Kingdom

Contacts and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Anke Luekewille

EEA Management Plan

2014 1.1.2 (note: EEA internal system)

Dates

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100