Directorate General Environment, European Commission

Dioxin Exposure and Health in the European Union


Courtesy of Directorate General Environment, European Commission

A study on the Evaluation of the occurrence of dioxins and POPs in wastes and their potential to enter the food chainwas financed by the Environment Directorate-General of the European Commission and coordinated by the Joint Research Centre, Environment Institute, Soil and Waste Unit and aimed at investigating to what extent the use of contaminated wastes in the production of animal feedstuffs may threaten public health via the food chain.

The continuation of this study « Dioxins and other POPs in by-products, recyclates and wastes and their potential to enter the food chain – Stage II » [Authors : European POPs Expert Team, September 2002] closed data gaps that have been identified in the first study, developed a sampling program and a sampling strategy in order to allow appropriate monitoring in the field of POPs and wastes related to the food chain, and provided conclusions and recommendations in relation to further research, data collection and reduction of human exposure. A general conclusion of the study is that an annual input of up to 10 g WHO-TEQ to European feedingstuffs due to the recovery of wastes, by-products and recyclates might exist. This underlines the need for further actions in the field of the recovery of wastes, by-products and recyclates to reach the general objective of lowering daily intake of POPs for humans.

What are the most significant industrial sources of dioxins and to what extent can new technologies be relied upon to reduce them further?

Dioxins are mainly produced as unwanted by-products of industrial processes.

According to the European Dioxin Inventory report (see below) the major industrial emission sources in Europe (accounting for about 62% of total dioxin air emissions) are probably:

  • incinerators for municipal waste;
  • iron ore sinter plants;
  • incinerators for clinical waste;
  • facilities of the non-ferrous metal industry.

The remaining 38% are partly due to other industrial sources but mainly come from non-industrial sources such as:

  • domestic heating facilities (particularly wood combustion);
  • accidental fires;
  • traffic (mainly if petrol is used).

A German delegation presented a memorandum on dioxin emissions to the European Council. This discussed the difficulties of obtaining reliable and consistent data on dioxin emissions from industrial sources. It recommended that the information available in the Member States should be compiled and evaluated and that the possibilities for limiting emissions should be demonstrated.

As a result of this, the European Commission Directorate General Environment sponsored a project on the Identification of relevant industrial sources of dioxins and furans - identification of their emissions and evaluation of abatement technologies.

Starting in 1995, Stage one of the project ended in November 1997 with the release of a 900 page report - the European Dioxin Inventory. The project report describes the information on dioxin emissions which is available from 17 European Countries; provides an evaluation of these data; estimates the annual emissions of these countries on a comparable basis.

It became obvious at an early stage of the project that a considerable amount of potentially useful information was not available. Gaps in data still existed for a number of potential and relevant dioxin emission sources. Additionally, there were several countries which collated little or no such information up to that date.

To reduce these uncertainties and to encourage the implementation of national actions the Commission committed itself to stage two of the project. This comprised a written study, Releases of Dioxins and Furans to Land and Water in Europe, as well as emission measurement programmes at relevant plants in various countries. The final report on stage two of the project, The European Dioxin Emission Inventory Stage II, is now available on these pages. [Authors: North Rhine-Westphalia State Environment Agency (LUA NRW) Prof. Dr. Bröker, Dr. Quass, Dr. Fermann]

Customer comments

No comments were found for Dioxin Exposure and Health in the European Union. Be the first to comment!