Controlling transboundary emissions of heavy metal pollutants

Reducing long-range air pollution from heavy metals

Techniques and management practices are available to reduce air pollution caused by the emissions of heavy metals.


Combustion and industrial processes are the predominant anthropogenic sources of emissions of heavy metals into the atmosphere. Emissions of certain heavy metals are transported across national boundaries and may cause damage to ecosystems of environmental and economic importance and may have harmful effects on human health. Heavy metals are natural constituents of the Earth's crust and that many heavy metals in certain forms and appropriate concentrations are essential to life.

"Heavy metals" means those metals or, in some cases, metalloids which are stable and have a density greater than 4.5 g/cm3 and their compounds.


The Protocol to the 1979 Convention on long-range transboundary air pollution on heavy metals was executed on 24 June 1998 in Ã…rhus, (Denmark). It targets three particularly harmful metals: cadmium, lead and mercury. According to one of the basic obligations, Parties will have to reduce their emissions for these three metals below their levels in 1990 (or an alternative year between 1985 and 1995). The Protocol aims to cut emissions from industrial sources (iron and steel industry, non-ferrous metal industry), combustion processes (power generation, road transport) and waste incineration. It lays down stringent limit values for emissions from stationary sources and suggests best available techniques (BAT) for these sources, such as special filters or scrubbers for combustion sources or mercury-free processes. The Protocol requires Parties to phase out leaded petrol. It also introduces measures to lower heavy metal emissions from other products, such as mercury in batteries, and proposes the introduction of management measures for other mercury-containing products, such as electrical components (thermostats, switches), measuring devices (thermometers, manometers, barometers), fluorescent lamps, dental amalgam, pesticides and paint.

Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy