3.3 Dispersion of hazardous substances

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Dispersion of hazardous substances - Environment in EU at the turn of the century (Chapter 3.3)


Various control measures have reduced chemical risk and some emissions and environmental concentrations of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and heavy metals are declining. But or 75% of the large volume chemicals on the market, there is insufficient analysis of toxicity and eco-toxicity available to support minimal risk assessment.

Positive trends from measures such as recycling are countered by a general increase in economic activity, including road transport and agricultural production. Consequently, total annual emissions of chemicals are expected to rise by 2010, following a 30-50% increase in the output of chemical industry.

Heavy metal exposure has been reduced through improved water treatment and the phasing out of leaded petrol which more than halved emissions of lead in the EU between 1990 and 1996. Cadmium and mercury emissions are expected to increase 20 to 30% between 1990 and 2010 from transport (tyres material) and industrial activities. Recent studies on the emissions of particulate matters (especially PM10) and attached heavy metals showed that the future situation could improve. The ultimate goal of bringing discharges and emissions to near background levels for heavy metals will not be achieved by 2010.

For the Accession Countries, over the next decade, significant decreases are anticipated for lead (58%), copper (31%) and mercury (12%) due to policy implementation. Emissions of cadmium are expected to increase 4% over the period as growth in traffic more than offsets improvements due to policy measures.

Overall, pesticide use appears to have fallen in most EU15 countries over the past 20 years; but despite reductions, even bans on the production and use of dichloryldiphenyl-trichoretane (DDT) and lindane, it will take considerable time for the reservoirs in the various environmental compartments to become depleted and stock-piles to run down. Moreover, bio-accumulation phenomena will continue as a result of redistribution processes for a long time after a substance has been banned from use. Over the next decade, slight increases in the emissions of some pesticides are expected in the EU, while others such as pentachlorophenol emissions should fall. In Accession Countries, there are expected to be large increases in the use of pesticides due to increased agricultural production. EU investment in converting biocide manufacturing plants to produce less harmful formulations in the Accession/Developing countries would help reduce exposure from long-range transboundary impacts and from traded goods.

Implementation of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPCC) Directive and earlier measures have reduced emissions of polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins/furans from power generation, refining, and waste incineration plants. Recycling does not always reduce overall human and environmental exposure because higher emission factors during reprocessing might be unavoidable.

While the concentration and deposition of dioxins are expected to fall in the EU between 1990-2010 with the implementation of existing and proposed policies, the concentrations of Benzo(a)pyrene and other Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, platinum (from catalytic converters) and brominated flame retardants are expected to increase over many parts of Europe.

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