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Input of hazardous substances in the north-east Atlantic

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Assessment made on  01 Jan 2001

Generic metadata


Coasts and seas Coasts and seas (Primary theme)

DPSIR: State


Indicator codes
Geographic coverage:

Policy issue:  Are we on course for eliminating emissions of substances dangerous to the marine environment?


Key assessment

There are three ways in which heavy metals and organics can reach the marine environment - direct discharges, via polluted rivers ('riverine') and through atmospheric pollution falling onto the sea.

Measures aimed at reducing all three channels have been quite successful - the total direct and riverine flow into the North-East Atlantic of all six substances fell between 1990 and 1998 by an average of 40%, with emissions of PCB7 and mercury - the most toxic chemicals - falling by 50% and over 60%, respectively.

These measures included increased sewage treatment, improvements in industrial processes, a ban on non-contained use of PCBs, and reduced use of cadmium in plastics, mercury in dental amalgalm, lead in petrol and lindane in agriculture.

As yet there are no data for the Mediterranean Sea, although they are expected to be lower due to lower heavy metal levels in Mediterranean rivers.


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