Atmospheric Emissions of Heavy Metals in the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea Environment Fact Sheet 2018, Published: 5 December 2018
Editor(s): Alexey Gusev, EMEP MSC-E
Annual atmospheric cadmium and mercury emissions of HELCOM countries have decreased by 37% and 45% during the period from 1990 to 2016.
Results and Assessments
Relevance of the BSEFS for describing the developments in the environment
This indicator shows the levels and trends in cadmium and mercury emissions from anthropogenic sources of HELCOM countries to the atmosphere. The emissions of heavy metals represent the pressure of emission sources on the atmosphere of the Baltic Sea region and subsequently on the Baltic Sea aquatic environment.
Policy relevance and policy reference
HELCOM adopted a Recommendation in May 2001 for the cessation of hazardous substance discharges/emissions by 2020, with the ultimate aim of achieving concentrations in the environment near to background values for naturally occurring substances and close to zero for man-made synthetic substances.
On the European level the relevant policy to the control of emissions of heavy metals to the atmosphere is being taken in the framework of UN ECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP). The Executive Body of CLRTAP adopted the Protocol on Heavy Metals on 24 June 1998 in Aarhus (Denmark). It targets three particularly harmful metals: cadmium, lead and mercury. According to one of the basic obligations, Parties have to reduce their emissions for these three metals below their levels in 1990. The Protocol has been entered into force in 2003 and has been signed and/or ratified by 41 countries.
Annual emissions of heavy metals from HELCOM countries have decreased during the period 1990-2016 by 37% for cadmium and 45% for mercury (Figure 1). The most significant drop of cadmium emissions can be noted for Finland (85%) and Estonia (82%). Mercury emission most significantly declined in Denmark (90%) and Sweden (73%). Higher emission of mercury in 2016 comparing to 1990 was estimated for Russia (by 12%).
The reduction in heavy metal emission to the atmosphere is a consequence of increased use of cleaner production technologies as well as of industrial restructuring in some of the HELCOM countries in early 1990s.
In 2016 total annual emissions of HELCOM countries amounted to 92 and 40 tonnes of cadmium and mercury, respectively. Among the HELCOM countries the largest contributions to HM emissions was made by Russia, Poland and Germany.
Maps with time-series of annual total cadmium and mercury emissions of HELCOM countries are shown in Figures 2 and 3. The diagrams also present the fractions of emissions deposited to the Baltic Sea. The largest fractions belong to Denmark and Sweden (about 20% for cadmium and 10% for mercury), while the lowest one to Russia (about 0.5%).
Figure 1. Total annual emissions of cadmium and mercury to the atmosphere from HELCOM countries in period 1990-2016
(% of 1990).
Figure 2. Map of cadmium emissions of HELCOM Contracting Parties (CP) to air as totals in tonnes/year for the period 1990-2016. Red sections of the bars identify the fraction of emission deposited to the Baltic Sea. Green bars indicate expert estimates. (Emission data of the CP refer to the total area of the CP except for Russia, where emissions from the territory ofRussia within the EMEP domain is used). Note: different scales have been used for different countries!
Figure 3. Map of mercury emissions of HELCOM Contracting Parties (CP) to air as totals in tonnes/year for the period 1990-2016. Red sections of the bars identify the fraction of emission deposited to the Baltic Sea. Green bars indicate expert estimates.(Emission data of the CP refer to the total area of the CP except for Russia, where emissions from the territory of Russia within the EMEP domain is used). Note: different scales have been used for different countries!
Numerical data on anthropogenic emissions of heavy metals from HELCOM countries are given in the following tables via this MS Excel file:
Table 1. Cadmium emissions from anthropogenic sources of HELCOM countries from 1990 to 2016.
Table 2. Mercury emissions from anthropogenic sources of HELCOM countries from 1990 to 2016.
2. Description of data:
Annual total emissions of cadmium and mercury were officially reported to the UN ECE Secretariat by HELCOM countries. These data are available from the EMEP Centre on Emission Inventories and Projections (CEIP) (http://www.ceip.at/).
3. Geographical coverage:
4. Temporal coverage:
Data on cadmium and mercury annual emission totals are available for the period 1990 – 2016 for all HELCOM countries but Russia. The Russian Federation did not submit the information for 2001 and 2007-2016. Values of HM emissions from Russia for 2007-2016 were estimated by CEIP (Tista et al., 2018).
5. Methodology and frequency of data collection:
National data on HM emissions are annually submitted by countries Parties to LRTAP Convention to the UN ECE Secretariat. The methodology is based on combination of measurements of releases to the atmosphere and estimation of emission based on activity data and emission factors. Submitted emission data are processed using quality assurance and quality control procedure and stored in the UN ECE/EMEP emission database at EMEP/CEIP Centre.
6. Strength and weakness:
Strength: data on emissions are annually submitted, checked and stored in the database
Weakness: gaps in time series of national emissions, uncertainties in national emissions, lack of gridded emissions, and incompleteness
Among the HELCOM countries the level of uncertainty of official data on HM emission was reported by Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, and Sweden. From other EMEP countries the information on uncertainties of HM official emissions is available for Belarus, Belgium, France, Croatia, Cyprus, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The uncertainty of reported data on HM emissions expressed as percentage relative to mean value of emission is as follows:
Finland: Cd ±28%
Denmark: Cd 431%
Estonia: Cd 134%
Latvia: Cd 29%
Poland: Cd 53%
Sweden: Cd 37%
Belarus: Cd 266%
Belgium: Cd 85%
France: Cd 37%
Croatia: Cd 295%
Cyprus: Cd 25%
Switzerland: Cd 20% to 50%
Hg 20% to 50%
UK: Cd -30% to >50%
Hg -30% to 50%
8. Further work required:
Further work of national experts on emissions of heavy metals is required to fill the gaps in the emission time-series and to reduce their uncertainties.
Tista M., Wankmueller R. and K.Mareckova  Methodologies applied to the CEIP GNFR gap-filling 2018. Part II: Heavy Metals (Pb, Cd, Hg) of the year 2016. Technical report CEIP 02/2018. (http://www.ceip.at/fileadmin/inhalte/emep/pdf/2018/HM_gap-filling_documentation_2018_v3.pdf)
For reference purposes, please cite this Baltic Sea environment fact sheet as follows:
[Author’s name(s)], [Year]. [Baltic Sea environment fact sheet title]. HELCOM Baltic Sea Environment Fact Sheets. Online. [Date Viewed], https://helcom.fi/baltic-sea-trends/environment-fact-sheets/