European Environment Agency (EEA)

Costs of air pollution from European industrial facilities – an updated assessment


Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

In 2011, the European Environment Agency (EEA) published a first assessment of the costs of air pollution caused by European industrial facilities. The report Revealing the costs of air pollution from industrial facilities in Europe (EEA, 2011) applied a simplified modelling approach to assess the damage costs to health and the environment in 2009, caused by pollutant emissions from industrial facilities officially reported to the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) (1).

Since 2011, the annual assessments of Europe's air quality published by EEA have regularly concluded that, despite a number of past successes in reducing emissions, air quality still needs to improve in order to reduce harm to human health and the environment (2). The need for regularly updated knowledge concerning air pollution sources, the subsequent levels of human and environmental exposure, and its associated costs remains important.

This report presents an updated assessment of the cost of damage to health and the environment in monetary terms from air pollution released in the years 2008 to 2012 by industrial facilities in the EU-27, Norway and Switzerland. The approach employed to estimate damage costs is again based upon existing standard policy tools and methods, such as those originally developed under the EU's Clean Air for Europe (CAFE) programme for the main air pollutants and since updated during the recent review of the European Union's (EU) air pollution policies performed by the European Commission. The assessment also uses other existing models and approaches used to inform policymakers about the damage costs for other pollutants. Together, the methods are used to quantify the impacts and associated damage costs caused by a number of pollutants emitted from industrial facilities, including:

  • the main air pollutants: ammonia (NH3), nitrogen oxides (NOX), non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs), particulate matter (PM10) and sulphur oxides (SOX);
  • heavy metals: arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and nickel; 
  • organic compounds: benzene, dioxins and furans, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAHs);
  • carbon dioxide (CO2).
Each of these pollutants can harm human health, the environment or both. Certain of them contribute to forming ozone and particulate matter in the atmosphere. There are significant differences in terms of the extent of current knowledge between the selected pollutants and the methods available to estimate their respective impacts. 

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