Sulphur and nitrogen emissions continue to fall in western Europe

Western Europe and the Scandinavian members of the EU have seen a sharp drop in many airborne pollutants over the past 15 years, as the effect of years of air quality legislation are felt.

Emissions of sulphur in the EU-15 are down by 70% since 1990 while nitrogen oxides have dropped by 30%.

These are the headline figures from the European Environment Agency’s, Annual European Community LRTAP Convention emission inventory 1990-2004, a report with a complicated name but a simple aim – to show emissions of a broad spectrum of air pollutants in a number of industrial sectors and other areas of concern in all the EU member states.

Emissions reductions took place in many of the sectors including transport, energy, agriculture and waste, and at EU-15 level emission reductions were recorded with other main air pollutants – carbon monoxide (-50%) ammonia (-8%) and Non methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) (-45%).

The EU-25 figures are, according to the EEA, less reliable due to a lack of reporting, particularly in the early part of the period surveyed when some were yet to become members of the union.

As a result of the occasionally slapdash reporting, the EEA has recommended that improvements are made to the completeness of submissions received from Member States as well as developing more formal quality assurance procedures.

While none of the EU-15 countries reported particularly high levels of hazardous heavy metals and persistent organic pollutnants, France was consistently among the worst offenders for these pollutants, closely followed by the UK and Italy.

By and large the general trend has been a fall in concentrations of airborne pollutants and a corresponding rise in air quality, though there have been some

Data from Member States are compiled by the European Environment Agency on behalf of the European Commission as part of the community’s legal reporting obligations for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (UNECE LRTAP Convention).

Sam Bond

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