Page Last modified 20 Apr 2016
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Many of the environmental problems currently facing Europe result from the discharge of pollutants into the environment. Information on the characteristics, quantities and locations of such emissions are therefore essential to the assessment, prediction and understanding of their fate and potential environmental impact. A systematic analysis of emissions into the various environmental media is also crucial for establishing quantitative and qualitative relationships between these problems and the pressures from specific sectors of activities, production processes and technologies. Strategies for controlling and reducing discharges will become more effective as the quality and quantity of information on these emissions develop.

The term 'emissions' can encompass a wide range of agents, from chemical susbstances to noise and radiation. In this report, 'emissions' refer specifically to substances which are of no further use for the purposes of production, transformation or consumption and which are released to the environment ­ air, water or land ­ rather than recycled or re-used. These are usually referred to as atmospheric emissions when directly released to air, as wastewater when discharged to waterbodies and as waste when dumped to land or handled further before final dumping. Wastes are a particular form of emissions; throughout their extended life, wastes may change nature and location as they are handled and processed before disposal to land, causing emissions to air, water and soil.

This chapter presents an overview of emissions to air and water in Europe ­ their physico-chemical characteristics, magnitude, pathways and sinks in the different environmental media. Wastes are treated separately in Chapter 15. The impacts of emissions are examined in detail in Chapters 4 to 11 and further developed in Chapters 27 to 38 as part of the presentation of prominent European environmental problems. Emissions are treated by sources in Chapters 19 to 26. Radioactive emissions are addressed in Chapters 16 and 18.

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