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Title (Primary) Chemicals in European waters : knowledge developments
Author Whalley, C.; Mohaupt, V.; Busch, W.; van den Roovaart, J.; van Dujnhoven, N.; Kirst, I.; Schmedtje, U.; Altenburger, R.; Sommer, L.;
Journal EEA Report
Year 2018
Department BIOTOX;
Volume 18/2018
Language englisch;
POF III (all) T42;
Keywords Water quality; Water management; Environmental policy; Chemical pollution; Surface water; Ground water; Europe
Abstract European Union (EU) and international policies have been tackling water and environmental pollution for nearly 50 years. Gross chemical pollution, exemplified by 'dead rivers', has been successfully addressed in many cases. However, in its recent report European waters — Assessment of status and pressures 2018, which was based on data from Member States on the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) (WFD), the European Environment Agency (EEA) found that only 38 % of EU surface water bodies are in good chemical status. 46 % are failing to achieve good chemical status and 16 % are in unknown chemical status (EEA, 2018a). Chemical status of surface waters under the WFD is assessed against a relatively short list of historically important pollutants. The concentration of a substance in the water is compared with an environmental quality standard (EQS) set for a single substance. This approach has been used for many years and fits well with regulations seeking to control chemicals at source. Most failures in the chemical status of surface waters can be attributed to three groups of substances, all of which are persistent and widely distributed: mercury and its compounds, PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and pBDEs (polybrominated diphenylethers). Through an analysis of the monitoring and emissions data reported by countries, specific actions can be determined that target these priority substances. Action should be taken to reduce all emissions of these substances, in particular, atmospheric emissions. We need to improve understanding of the pathways taken by pBDEs and the pressures causing PAHs to pollute surface waters. Monitoring under the WFD provides important feedback on the effectiveness of chemical source control. However, our understanding of the complex interactions between chemicals and living organisms has greatly increased over the last 20 years. At concentrations lower than those that kill directly, harmful chemicals may exert more subtle effects on organisms, for example by limiting the organism's ability to reproduce. Concern has been raised about the 'cocktail effect', whereby mixtures of substances that may individually be present at harmless concentrations may combine in complicated ways to affect health. New approaches have been developed to measure these effects in effluents and the environment, and these offer ways to assess the potential risks presented by mixtures while still providing information on the types of chemicals causing these risks. This causal information is important for the implementation of effective measures against pollution. From the reported data, we can see that for a number of priority substances, measures seem to have been effective in preventing the entry of these chemicals into surface waters. This success should be welcomed and we should learn the lessons around which approaches work and which do not. However, there are many more chemicals in the environment about which we know little. The challenge presented by chemical mixtures highlights the need to fundamentally review which chemicals we use and how we use them. For the longer term, moving to a less toxic, safer and more sustainable future requires the development of approaches that avoid the use of hazardous substances. Emissions data on pollutants as reported in Europe (for the WFD, the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) or the reporting of the Water Information System for Europe — State of the Environment (WISE-SoE)) can give an important overview on emissions, the impact of measures and trends. However, such data are incomplete and inconsistent and too often exclude diffuse sources. Improvements to our understanding of emissions could be achieved by streamlining of emissions reporting requirements, towards securing robust data satisfying all European emissions to water reporting requirements, and improving the monitoring, modelling and reporting of diffuse sources, to ensure that pressures are correctly understood and measures can be appropriately targeted.
ID 21345
Persistent UFZ Identifier https://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=20939&ufzPublicationIdentifier=21345
Whalley, C., Mohaupt, V., Busch, W., van den Roovaart, J., van Dujnhoven, N., Kirst, I., Schmedtje, U., Altenburger, R., Sommer, L. (2018):
Chemicals in European waters : knowledge developments
EEA Report 18/2018
Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg, 76 pp.