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Industry is an important part of the European economy, providing vital goods for modern life and jobs. At the same time, it is a source of great pressure on nature and on human health. Even though releases of pollutants by European industry have generally decreased over the last decade, the impacts and costs of pollution from industry remain high.
Heavy metals: Cadmium, mercury, lead...
Heavy metals accumulate in ecosystems and damage human health. In line with the EU’s commitments under international conventions, specific legislation led to reductions in emissions of heavy metals across Europe from 1990 levels.
Between 2005 and 2020, emissions have continued to decline, with lead emissions decreasing by 49%, mercury emissions by 51% and cadmium emissions by 39% across the EU-27 Member States. In 2020, Germany, Italy and Poland contributed most to heavy metal emissions in the EU.
Phasing out ozone-depleting substances
The EU continues to actively phase out ozone-depleting substances (ODS), in line with its commitment under the Montreal Protocol.
In 2021, the EU’s consumption of controlled substances amounted to 1,176 metric tonnes, up from a negative consumption level of -2,688 metric tonnes in 2020. The consumption of controlled substances, when expressed in metric tonnes, was largely driven by large quantities of carbon tetrachloride that were stockpiled before export.
See EEA indicator for larger version of the graph. It shows the drastic drop from 2009 onwards.
The costs to health and the environment from industrial air pollution
Air pollution from large European industry continues to cause significant damage to the environment, climate and people’s health.
The analysis shows that just a small fraction of the most polluting facilities — many of them coal power plants — causes half of the total damage.
However, the EEA analysis also shows that environmental and health costs of European industry have decreased by a third (-33%) from 2012 to 2021. The EU energy sector has accounted for the vast majority — about 80% — of the total decrease.
How much pollutant does large industry release to nature?
The European Union has strict regulations on industrial pollution. Check out the European Industrial Emissions Portal for detailed information on the largest industrial complexes in Europe, releases and transfers of regulated pollutants to air, water and soil, as well as waste transfers and much more.
Check industrial pollution in your country
Country profiles are available for each of the 33 EEA member countries individually as well as one profile on all 33 EEA member countries and another one for all EU-27 Member States as a group.
These profiles summarise key data related to industry: its relevance with respect to economic contributions, energy and water consumption, as well as air and water emissions and waste generation.