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Sound and independent information
on the environment

Denmark

Air pollution (Denmark)

Why should we care about this issue

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

Significant improvements of the air quality in the cities and decreased emission of air pollutants from industry have occurred over the last decades. However, air pollution continues to be one of the most important environmental problems in Denmark and is linked to considerable impacts on human health and the environment.

The state and impacts

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Health problems caused by air pollution are particularly a problem in the larger cities. The main concerns are particulate matter (PM) and nitrogendioxide (NO2). The yearly average 2010-EU limit value for air quality of NO2 cannot be met. In 2009 all EU air quality limit values for PM10,is being meet. For other air pollutants, including SO2, CO, ozone, benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals (Pb, As, CD and Ni) the EU air quality criteria are met. Estimations show that air pollution from particulate matter causes severe health problems estimated to cause 3 400 premature deaths each year.

Figure 1a (2.4.1)Figure 1b (2.4.2)

Figure 1a + 1b (2.4.1/2.4.2). Yearly average concentration data of particulate matter (PM10) in city air measured in the larger cities in Denmark, i.e. Copenhagen, Aarhus, Odense and Aalborg (Figure a) and the number of days with exceedance of the EU air quality limit 50mg /m3 (Figure b). The EU air quality limit of 50mg /m3 can only be exceeded 35 days a year. Source: National Environmental Research Institute. http://www2.dmu.dk/1_Viden/2_miljoe-tilstand/3_luft/4_maalinger/5_database/hentdata.asp

Figure 2 (2.4.1)

Figure 2 (2.4.1). Concentration of nitrogen oxide (NO2) in city air measured in the larger cities in Denmark, i.e. Copenhagen, Aarhus, Odense and Aalborg. EUs air quality limit value is also shown.

Source: National Environmental Research Institute http://www2.dmu.dk/1_Viden/2_miljoe-tilstand/3_luft/4_maalinger/5_database/hentdata.asp

Emission of particulate matter causes severe health problems, resulting in an increased number of cases and worsening of asthma attacks, chronic and acute bronchitis and increased hospitalisation from cardiovascular diseases. An estimated 3 400 premature deaths each year, mainly among people already suffering from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, has been calculated based on city air quality measurements.

Figure 3 (8.3.1)

Figure 3 (8.3.1). Incidence of respiratory diseases among adults and children in Denmark. In 2005 no complete data series is available.

Deposition of nitrogen compounds to the aquatic and terrestrial areas have been decreasing over the last decades and from 1989 to 2008 the decrease is estimated at 28% and 30%, respectively. Terrestrial deposition of sulphur has decreased by 66% from 1989 to 2008 while no significant change in deposition of phosphorus has been estimated. Deposition of nine heavy metals (Cr, Mn, Fe, Ni, Cu, Zn, As, Cd and Pb) has remained unchanged since 2005.

Figure 4 (6.7.3)

Figure 4 (6.7.3). Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen from air in kg N per ha in 2008. Source: National Environmental Research Institute (unpublished data)

Figure 5 (6.7.3)

Figure 5 (6.7.3). Atmospheric deposition of sulphur in kg per ha in 2008. Source: National Environmental Research Institute (unpublished data)

 

Although deposition of acidifying and eutrophying air pollutants is decreasing, the critical loads to sensitive habitats continue to be exceeded for sulphur and nitrogen. Also ground-level ozone frequently exceeds the critical level for toxicity effects on plants.

Figure 6. (6.7.1)

Figure 6 (6.7.1): The average atmospheric deposition of nitrogen (N) to Danish land-based areas. Critical loads for some of the most sensitive ecosystem areas and hardwood are included in the figure. For comparison a conventional corn field is fertilised with approximately 150 kg N per year. Source: National Environment Research Institute and Forest and Nature Agency

The key drivers and pressures

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

The National Danish emission inventory data of time series of air pollutants are publicly available at NERI’s website : http://www.dmu.dk/Luft/Emissioner/Air+pollutants/

The main sources of emissions of the acidifying gases sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are the industrial, energy, and transport sectors, while emissions of ammonia (NH3) are almost entirely from the agricultural sector. In 2008, emissions of SO2 from the industry and energy sectors were 28 % and 34 % respectively. The transport sector accounts for 47 % of the total emissions of NOx and the agricultural sector for almost 98 % of emission of NH3. The reduction in emissions of acidifying gases, measured as acidifying potential, was 29 % from 2000 to 2008.

Figure 7 (2.1.2)

Figure 7 (2.1.2). Emission of acidifying gases expressed as acidifying equivalence for sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and ammonia (NH3). Reference: National Environment Research Institute

 

The most important ozone-forming air pollutants include non-methane volatile organic compound (NMVOC), carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). The main sources of NMVOC are incomplete combustion in the transport sector and evaporation from the use of solvents in production. The reduction in emissions of ozone forming air pollutants, measured as ozone forming potential, was 23% from 2000 to 2008.

Figure 8 (2.2.1)

Figure 8 (2.2.1). Ozone-forming potential (NMVOC-equivalence) from emission of the most important ozone-forming air pollutants including non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC), nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon mono-oxide (CO) and methane (CH4).

In general, the most important sources of heavy metal emissions are from energy production, i.e. combustion of fossil fuel and waste. Heavy metal emissions have decreased substantially over the last decades. From 1990 to 2008, the reduction of Hg, Cd and Pb amounted to 75%, 63% and 93%. Since 2000, the decrease has been much less, amounting to 20-25% for the three compounds.

Increased combustion of wood in the residential sector has caused emissions of PAHs and dioxin to increase. PAHs increased by 156% and dioxin by 53% from 1990 to 2008.

Figure 9 (2.3.2)

Figure 9 (2.3.2). Emission of heavy metals (mercury (Hg), cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb) distributed on economic sectors in 2008. The waste sector contributes with the highest levels of emissions of heavy metals.

Figure 10 (2.3.1)

Figure 10 (2.3.1). Emissions of heavy metals, PAHs and dioxins. Emissions have been decreasing except for PAHs.

The 2020 outlook

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

The main sources of emissions of the acidifying gases sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) are the industrial, energy, and transport sectors, while emissions of ammonia (NH3) are almost entirely from the agricultural sector. In 2008, emissions of SO2 from the industry and energy sectors were 28 % and 34 % respectively. The transport sector accounts for 47 % of the total emissions of NOx and the agricultural sector for almost 98 % of emission of NH3. The reduction in emissions of acidifying gases, measured as acidifying potential, was 29 % from 2000 to 2008.

Emissions of heavy metals and selected organic compounds are to be restricted to the 1990-emissions level according to the Danish obligations through international agreements (UNECE-LRTAP). Only emissions of PAHs do not meet the emissions reduction obligation.

 

 

Air pollutants

 

 

Emissions in 2008 (tonnes)

Emissions projection 2010

(tonnes)

Emissions projection 2015

(tonnes)

Emissions projection 2020

(tonnes)

Emissions ceiling

(tonnes)

Sulphur dioxide (SO2)

19 605

20 000

21 000

21 000

55 000

Nitrogen oxides

 (NOx)

151 686

126 000

121 000

110 000

127 000

Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC)

 

106 306

85 000

76 000

72 000

85 000

Ammonia (NH3)

 

65 933

65 000

58 000

55 000

69 000

 

Table 1. Overview of emissions of air pollutants in 2008, emissions ceilings and projections in 2010, 2015 and 2020. Projections of NOx emissions are based on the use of ’old‘ emission factors for heavy road transport as used originally and an expected reduction of 5000 tons NOx due to a newly introduced NOx tax. Projections of emissions reduction of NMVOC are based on projections of fuel composition from 2008. Projections of ammonia are excluding emissions from crops. Source: National Environmental Research Institute. http://www.dmu.dk/Luft/Emissioner/Air+pollutants/

 

Compound

Emissions in 1990

Emissions in 2008

Hg

3.2 tonnes

0.82 tonnes

Cd

1.1 tonnes

0.42 tonnes

Pb

119.8 tonnes

8.211 tonnes

Dioxin

66 g

32 g

PAHs

6.6 tonnes

16.9 tonnes

Table 2. Emissions of air pollutants of heavy metals, dioxin and PAHs. Source: National Environmental Research Institute. http://www.dmu.dk/Luft/Emissioner/Air+pollutants/

Existing and planned responses

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

The large reduction in emissions of SO2 is mainly due to the installation of desulphurisation plants, a tax on sulphur emissions, and the use of fuels with lower content of sulphur in public power and district heating plants.

The reduction in emissions of NOx is due to an increased use of catalysts in cars and the installation of low-NOx burners and de-nitrifying units in power and district heating plants.

The reduction in NH3 is due to the adoption of a series of national action plans on the aquatic environment during the last twenty years, and the Ammonia Action Plan. These action plans set limits for the loss of nitrogen to the environment from the agricultural sector.

To meet reduction goals for NOx, NMVOC, PAHs and air quality limit values for NO2, further reduction measures will be initiated as described in the Danish Air Strategy from 2008. For particulate matter, a strengthening of existing environmental zones, filters in new taxis and a tax on cars without filters are measures which have been implemented. For PAHs, a legal notice that sets emission limits for wood‑burning stoves and boilers went into force in June 2008. An action plan for NO2 is expected to emerge in 2010. Also the government plan for ‘Green Growth’ describes improvements for air quality.

The large reduction in Pb emissions is due to a gradual shift towards unleaded gasoline being essential for catalyst cars. Other reductions in emissions of heavy metals are mainly due to the increased use of gas‑cleaning devices at power and district heating plants (including waste incineration plants).

 

Reference

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The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

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