This indicator tracks trends in anthropogenic emissions of POPs since 2005. At the moment, emissions of PAHs are described, but emissions of PCBs, HCB, PCDDs and PCDFs compounds will be added in the future.
This indicator is based on the national total and sectoral emissions officially reported to the EEA and the UNECE/co-operative programme for monitoring and evaluation of the long-range transmission of air pollutants in Europe (EMEP) LRTAP Convention. For the EU-27, the data used are 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. Base data are available from the EEA Data Service and the EMEP website. If necessary, gaps in reported data are filled by the European Topic Centre for Air and Climate Change (ETC/ACC) using simple interpolation techniques (see below). The final gap-filled data used in this indicator are available from the EEA Data Service.
Indicator specification and metadata
Base data, reported in the UNECE/EMEP nomenclature for reporting (NFR14) sector format, are 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 metals.
- 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 and field-burning of agricultural wastes.
- Waste: incineration and wastewater management.
- Other: emissions included in national totals for the entire territory that are not allocated to any other sector.
The following table shows the conversion of NFR sector codes used for reporting by countries into EEA sector codes:
Non-greenhouse gases (NFR)
Energy production and distribution
1A1, 1A3e, 1B
Energy use in industry
Non-road transport (non-road mobile machinery)
1A3 (excl. 1A3b)
Industrial processes and product use
Commercial, institutional and households
1A4ai, 1A4aii, 1A4bi, 1A4bii, 1A4ci, 1A4cii 1A5a, 1A5b
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 to be compiled. In cases in which countries did not report emissions for any year, it meant that gap filling could not be applied. For these pollutants, therefore, the aggregated data are not yet complete and are likely to underestimate true emissions. Further methodological details of the gap-filling procedure are provided in the European Union emission inventory report 1990-2021 under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) .
POPs, including PAHs, are recognised as being directly toxic to biota. They can progressively accumulate in the food chain in a way that chronic exposure of lower organisms to relatively low concentrations can expose predatory organisms, including humans and wildlife, to potentially harmful concentrations. POPs are also of concern for human health because of their toxicity, potential to cause cancer and ability to cause harmful effects at low concentrations. Their relative toxic/carcinogenic potencies are compound specific. POPs, including PAHs, have also been shown to possess a number of toxicological properties. The major concern is centred around their possible carcinogenic, immunological and reproductive effects, but more recently concern has also been expressed over their possible harmful effects on human development.
Targeted European Commission legislation (directives and regulations), coupled with improved control and abatement techniques, have led to good progress being made by the 27 EU Member States (EU-27) towards reducing air emissions of POPs, including the PAH group of chemicals. Such legislation is described below.
The ultimate objective of the 1998 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Aarhus Protocol on POPs (to the 1979 Air Convention) is to eliminate any discharges, emissions and losses of POPs . The original protocol already banned the production and use of some products (aldrin, chlordane, chlordecone, dieldrin, endrin, hexabromobiphenyl, mirex and toxaphene), while others are scheduled for elimination at a later date (DDT, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene and PCBs). In 2009, the protocol was updated to list commercial pentabromodiphenyl (penta-BDE) and commercial octabromodiphenyl (octa-BDE) as POPs, and the POPs task force concluded that hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD) also met the criteria to be considered a POP, and therefore potential risk management options are currently being considered for it. Finally, the protocol severely restricts the use of DDT, hexachlorocyclohexane (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 and furans, PAHs and HCB to below their 1990 levels (or an alternative year between 1985 and 1995). It also lays down specific limit values for the incineration of municipal, hazardous and medical waste.
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 for developing countries and countries with economies in transition, and to cooperate and exchange information. Twelve POPs were covered under the original scope of the Stockholm Convention:
- pesticides: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex and toxaphene;
- industrial chemicals: HCB and PCBs;
- by-products: HCB, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDDs/PCDFs), and PCBs.
In May 2009, additional chemicals were added to the Stockholm Convention:
- pesticides: chlordecone, alpha hexachlorocyclohexane, beta hexachlorocyclohexane, lindane and pentachlorobenzene;
- industrial chemicals: hexabromobiphenyl, hexabromodiphenyl ether and heptabromodiphenyl ether, pentachlorobenzene, perfluorooctane sulfonic acid and its salts, and perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride, tetrabromodiphenyl ether and pentabromodiphenyl ether;
- by-products: alpha-HCH, beta-HCH and pentachlorobenzene.
The European Commission’s Communication on a Community strategy for dioxins, furans and PCBs (COM(2001) 593 final) aims to assess the current state of the environment and to reduce human exposure and long-term environmental effects. This communication does not propose legislative measures, but could be the basis for a Community action plan.
Directive 2001/80/EC on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants has had the effect of reducing heavy metal and PAH emissions via dust control and absorption.
Regulation (EC) No 850/2004 on persistent organic pollutants entered into force on 20 May 2004. The main purpose of this regulation is to enable the European Community to ratify the Stockholm Convention and the Aarhus Protocol. The regulation also deals with stockpiles of redundant substances.
Directive 2008/50/EC on ambient air quality and cleaner air for Europe (2008/50/EC) and Directive 2004/107/EC relating to heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in ambient air contain provisions, and target and limit values for the further control of air pollutants in ambient air.
There are also a number of specific EU environmental quality and emission standards for heavy metals and POPs in coastal and inland waters, drinking waters, etc. These have only indirect relevance to air emissions, as they do not directly specify emission or precipitation quality requirements, but rather specify the required quality of receiving waters. Such measures include Directive 84/491/EEC on hexachlorohexane discharges; Directives 76/464/EC and 86/280/EC on dangerous substances; and the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC).
Other related policy documents include:
The use of gap filling for countries that have not reported emissions for 1 or 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.
The levels of uncertainty in the emission estimates of PAHs reported by countries are considered higher than for other, more ‘traditional’ air pollutants, such as NOx and SO2, because of the relatively high levels of uncertainty that exist with regard to both activity data and emission factors for this group of pollutants. Emission estimates for the other POPs are also considered to have a high degree of 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 important. Any uncertainties involved in the calculation and the data sets must be accurately communicated in the assessment, to prevent erroneous information from influencing policy actions or processes.