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Heavy Metal Emissions, Depositions, Critical Loads and Exceedances in Europe, 2006

Abstract

This report summarizes knowledge of - and comparison between - heavy metal emission reduction scenario’s and resulting depositions and critical load exceedances.
The focus of the report is on the relative assessment of the effects of the three "priority" heavy metals cadmium, mercury and lead, and - more tentatively - of other heavy metals on human health and the environment. Scenario analysis has been applied and described in this report to enable a tentative comparison of emission reduction alternatives in terms of risks to human health and the environment.

The structure of the report follows the cause-effect chain, i.e. the emissions, dispersion, critical loads and critical load exceedances of cadmium, mercury, lead, chromium, nickel, copper, zinc, arsenic and selenium are considered respectively. Three scenarios have been defined to review the risks of impacts to human health and the environment in 2020 in comparison to 2000. For 2020 the scenarios are Current LEgislation (CLE), Full Implementation of the protocol (FI) and Full Implementation plus Additional Measures (FIAM).

The risk of cadmium, mercury and lead, are confirmed in the scenario analysis presented here. The European ecosystem area at risk in 2000 of adjusted national emissions of cadmium, mercury and lead is about 0.34 %, 77 % and 42 % respectively. In 2020 - after full implementation of the Protocol plus additional measures - these areas are reduced to 0.02 %, 74 % and 19 % respectively. The distribution and magnitude of the deposition of mercury and lead in particular puts large areas of European ecosystems at risk of adverse effects both in 2000 and 2020.

The effect based scenario analysis of emissions of chromium, nickel, copper, zinc, arsenic and selenium indicates that a relatively small ecosystem area in Europe is subject to risk of adverse effects of these metals in 2000. For 2020, the application of the CLE, FI or FIAM scenarios leads to the identification of a relative – yet not widely spread – risk of copper, zinc and selenium to remain. The atmospheric depositions of these three metals are computed to cause risk of adverse effects of about 1% or less (in the case of FIAM) of the European ecosystem area in 2020. However, it is noted by EMEP-MSCE that modelled concentrations and depositions of copper, zinc and selenium are significantly underestimated and not recommended for use in exceedance calculations. The tentative use of higher emission data by EMEP-MSCE (see ESPREME project) demonstrated that an improved agreement between modelled and measured depositions in 2000 can be obtained.

Acknowledging that even a small exceedance may result in a future effect on a human or environmental endpoint, the tentative result of the assessment of exceedances of other than priority metals may be considered in line with the conclusions formulated in the Sufficiency and Effectiveness report by the Task Force on Heavy Metals. In the Sufficiency and Effectiveness report it is stated that "Presently, available information indicates that none of these other metals achieve high enough concentrations as a result of long-range atmospheric transport and deposition to cause adverse effects on wildlife and human health".

This report provides further substantiation that the policy focus on priority metals is justifed.

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