Major air pollutants rising across the EU

Several major air pollutants including particulate matter, carbon monoxide and ammonia all increased across the EU in 2017, according to data published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Its report, which tracks key pollutants in every member state, revealed a mixed picture in reducing emissions with more than half of the 26 pollutants monitored increasing in 2017 compared to 2016.

It found that emissions of non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs) increased by 1.3%, carbon monoxide (CO) emissions by 0.2% and ammonia (NH3) by 0.4%.

Particulate matter, several heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants also all also increased slightly.

However, the report noted that emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur oxides (SOx) fell by 1.8% and 1.3% respectively.

The author’s of the report said the rate of emission reductions has ‘stagnated’ for many pollutants across the bloc.

It said a particular focus should be placed on ammonia emissions which have fallen less than emissions of the other main pollutants since 1990 and increased in each of the past four years.

Ammonia has been called the ‘poor cousin’ of air pollution as it has flown below the radar of regulators, despite its destructive impacts.

According to official figures, farming is responsible for around 88% of all UK emissions of ammonia gas which can travel long distances, is damaging to the environment and combines with other pollutants to form particulates.

The report also highlights the ‘growing importance’ of emissions caused by fuels burned by domestic wood burners which contributed to 51% of all fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emitted directly into the air in 2017.

42% of total carbon monoxide, 42% of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, 24% of the dioxin and furan compounds and 16% of the heavy metal cadmium were released by this single source.

The data is from the annual EU emission inventory report sent to the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP).

AirQualityNews has asked the EU Commission to comment on the report.

Read the report here.