Impacts of NMVOC emissions on human health in European countries for 2000-2010: Use of sector-specific substance profiles

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    Non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) are known to cause damages to human health via two main pathways, viz. the direct toxic effects exerted by certain substances (termed here human toxicity) and their indirect effects related to photochemical ozone formation (POF). To comprehensively assess the damages at national level and thus define adequate air pollution abatement policies, substance breakdowns are needed. However, these are not readily available as total NMVOC emissions are only reported at sector level. In this study, we developed a reproducible methodology that combines available speciation profiles, i.e. distributions of substances emitted per type of sources, and sectoral NMVOC information to reach country-specific, substance-specific emission profiles. Annual emission inventories, including 270 single substances and 52 unrefined groups of substances, were determined for 31 European countries within the period 2000e2010. Using life cycle impact assessment methods for POF and human toxicity, impacts on human health were quantified. The results indicated that a strong linear correlation exists between POF impacts and the total NMVOC emissions, suggesting that air pollution abatement policies could use total NMVOC emissions as a proxy for reducing these impacts. Despite underlying uncertainties, the results also demonstrated that the POF impacts from NMVOC are negligible compared to their direct toxic impacts. The analysis of the results revealed that the toxic impacts (i) are caused by few substances, such as formaldehyde, acrolein and furan, (ii) primarily stem from transportation sectors and from residential sources, and (iii) are found not to correlate with total NMVOC emissions. Our findings therefore suggest the need for supporting air pollution abatement strategies with comprehensive impact assessments, which, in addition to complementing emission- and concentrationbased indicators, should allow identifying country-specific improvement potentials at substance and sector levels.
    © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalAtmospheric Environment
    Issue number4
    Pages (from-to)247-255
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    • Non-methane volatile organic compounds
    • Life cycle impact assessment
    • National emission inventory
    • Speciation
    • Air pollution abatement
    • DALY

    Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Impacts of NMVOC emissions on human health in European countries for 2000-2010: Use of sector-specific substance profiles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this