The aim of ESPREME was to develop methods and to identify strategies to support EU environmental policy-making for reducing the emissions and thus the harmful impacts of heavy metals (HMs). The core aim of the research was to carry out damage assessment considering heavy metals to the environment and human health in the long term. The priority metals mercury, cadmium, lead, nickel, arsenic and chromium have been covered.

The following tasks have been carried out

Achieved results

Emissions of HM into air, soil and water

Emissions to soil and water
Fig. 1: Contribution of different anthropogenic sources to the air emissions of Pb in Europe, BAU 2010

Atmospheric deposition and agricultural input into soil
Fig. 2: Contribution of atmospheric deposition and direct agricultural input into soil in Europe, BAU 2010

As one example out of several investigated trace elements, Figure 3 shows the spatial distribution of lead emissions in Europe for the business as usual scenario (BAU) 2010.

Pb emission
Fig. 3: Spatial resolution of Pb emission, BAU 2010

Data sets with costs and potential of emission reduction measures

Detailed concentration maps of HMs concentrations in air and deposition into water and soil

Transport and deposition of HM in the atmosphere has been modeled using the atmospheric model of MSC-East. The pathway of HMs in water and soil, crop plants and food has been estimated with the multimedia model WATSON.

Cd deposition
Fig. 4: Deposition of Cd in Europe, BAU 2010

With these models, concentrations and deposition fields as well as intake via ingestion have been generated for the different scenarios as exemplarily shown in Figure 4 for cadmium.

A set of exposure-response-relationships to calculate impacts to human health and a procedure to estimate the exceedances of critical loads in soil

Health endpoints covered include cancer, IQ losses, renal dysfunctions, still birth, cardiovascular mortality, anaemia, ataxia and osteoporosis.

Human health impacts and related external costs have been calculated for different emission scenarios, in addition marginal costs in € per ton for the inhalation pathway have been generated. The highest health damage in Europe is caused by lead, followed by arsenic and mercury. The damage caused by ingestion is much higher than that caused by inhalation, however occurs far in the future, thus damage costs are much lower, if discounted.

With regard to reduction measures, especially measures, that reduce simultaneously HM and other substances like particulate matter or SO2 have been found to be efficient. These include enhancement of dust filters, substitution of coal, further implementation of flue gas desulphurization and further reduction of lead in ‘unleaded’ gasoline.