EU dioxin reduction target "almost in reach"

Big cut in industrial air emissions but slower decline for non-industrial sources, discharges to land, water

An EU target to reduce the bloc's dioxin emissions to air by 90% based on 1985 levels will almost be achieved by a 2005 deadline, a report published by the European Commission on Friday has concluded.

The news is contained in the latest report on the European dioxin emission inventory, coordinated by the North Rhine Westphalia state environment agency. It concludes that "comprehensive abatement measures" carried out over the past 15 years by the EU's most industrialised member states have led to sharp declines in dioxin concentrations in ambient air. As a result, concentrations in food, human blood and breast milk are "generally declining".

Despite this success the 90% target will be missed for two main reasons, the report says. Little progress has been made in controlling non-industrial sources and some EU member states did not identify important industrial sources until the early 1990s and therefore have not completed abatement programmes.

Beyond emissions to air, there remains the question of quantifying dioxin emissions to land and water, the report says. A first report on the issue was completed in 1999, but there are too many data gaps to know whether emissions are rising or falling.

Dioxins are among a group of "dirty dozen" chemical substances targeted for global phase-out or severe reduction under the terms of an international treaty on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) (EED 22/05/01). Once the POPs convention enters into force, the EU will be required to catalogue sources of dioxins and devise an elimination action plan.

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