Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission


Baltic Marine Environment
Protection Commission


Control of hazardous substances in the Baltic Sea region – COHIBA

The aim of the Project on Control of hazardous substances in the Baltic Sea region (COHIBA) was to:

  • identify the most important sources of 11 hazardous substances of special concern, and to develop controls for the substances, applying the so called “whole effluent assessment”,
  • quantify inputs of the selected substances to the Baltic Sea,
  • analyze the pathways of the selected substances from production, processes and uses to the marine environment,
  • create cost-effective management options to reduce discharges and
  • contribute to the development of national implementation programmes.

With HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP, 2007) the Baltic Sea countries have committed themselves to achieve a “Baltic Sea with life undisturbed by hazardous substances” – i.e. substances, that are toxic, persistent and bio-accumulative or affect hormonal and immune systems. The overall objective of COHIBA was to support the implementation of the BSAP with regard to hazardous substances by developing joint actions to reach the goal.
COHIBA (2009-2012) was co-financed by the European Union within the Baltic Sea Region Programme 2007-2013. Its total budget amounted to around EUR 4,9 million.

New approach to control chemicals

The project introduced the whole effluent assessment approach to monitor hazardous substances. At the moment the restrictions concerning discharges and emission are often based on the determination of chemical concentrations. Unlike the chemical-specific approach, the whole effluent assessment method does not require a comprehensive knowledge on the composition of substances of the effluent, but gives a summary of the toxicity of the effluent. The project aimed to create new tools for evaluating toxicity of the selected effluents and in identification of environmental risks to the sea.
There is a need to create common methods to estimate and quantify the inputs of hazardous substances to the Baltic Sea.
To identify the sources of hazardous substances the project carried out case studies in each Baltic Sea countries, where municipal and industrial waste waters, landfill effluents and storm waters of selected sites were screened during one year.

Hazardous substances still pose risks in the Baltic Sea area

Loads and impacts of some hazardous substances have been reduced considerably during the past 20-30 years, but concentrations of some other substances have increased in the marine environment.
The sources, inputs and cost effective solutions for the reduction of the hazardous substances of concern are largely unknown. For instance, information on sources, loads and impacts are scarce. Countries do not have sufficient information, yet alone registers for chemical, which makes it difficult to identify the sources and the releases.
These substances can remain in the marine environment for a very long period and accumulate in the food chain up to levels, which are toxic to marine organisms.

Project partners

Finnish Environment Institute led the project, and 22 partners from 8 countries and several associated organisations were involved in it. Project partners were:

  • Finland: Finnish Environment Institute
  • Denmark: The Copenhagen Municipality, Copenhagen Waste Water Treatment Plants, Copenhagen Energy and Technical University of Denmark.
  • Estonia: Baltic Environmental Forum; Estonian Marine Institute, University of Tartu; Estonian Environmental Research Centre; Tallinn University of Technology
  • Germany: Federal Environment Agency of Germany; Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Ministry for Agriculture, Environment and Consumer Protection.
  • Latvia: Baltic Environment Forum; Latvian Institute for Aquatic Ecology.
  • Lithuania: Baltic Environment Forum; Centre of Marine Research; Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Environment; Institute of Botany.
  • Poland: Institute of Ecology of Industrial Areas IETU.
  • Sweden: IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute; Swedish Chemicals Agency; City of Stockholm
  • HELCOM Secretariat


Ansa Pilke, Project Manager
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)
Phone: +358 (0)40 834 6537  ​