Cancer and Environmental Epidemiology Area, National Centre for Epidemiology. Carlos III Institute of Health, C/Sinesio Delgado, 6, 28029 Madrid, Spain
Toxic substances released into the environment (to both air and water) by many types of industries might be related with the occurrence of some malignant tumours and other diseases. The publication of the EPER (European Pollutant Emission Register) Spanish data allows to investigate the presence of geographical mortality patterns related to industrial pollution. The aim of this paper is to describe industrial air and water pollution in Spain in 2001, broken down by activity group and specific pollutant, and to plot maps depicting emissions of carcinogenic substances.
All information on industrial pollution discharge in 2001 was drawn from EPER-Spain public records provided by the European Commission server. We described the distribution of the number of industries and amounts discharged for each pollutant, as well as emission by pollutant group and the industrial activities associated with each pollutant. Maps of Spain were drawn up, with UTM coordinates being used to plot pollutant foci, and circles with an area proportional to the emission to depict pollution emission values.
The EPER-Spain contained information on 1,437 industrial installations. The industrial plants that discharge pollutant substances into air and water above the pollutant-specific EPER threshold were mainly situated in the Autonomous Regions of Aragon, Andalusia and Catalonia and in Catalonia, the Basque Country and Andalusia respectively. Pollution released in 2001 into air approached 158 million Mt. Emissions into water were over 8 million Mt.
A few single industrial plants are responsible for the highest percentage of emissions, thus rendering monitoring of their possible health impact on the surrounding population that much simpler. Among European countries Spain is the leading polluter in almost one third of all EPER-registered pollutant substances released into the air and ranks among the top three leading polluters in two-thirds of all such substances. Information obtained through publication of EPER data means that the possible consequences of reported pollutant foci on the health of neighbouring populations can now be studied.
◊ An open access article from BMC Public Health 2007, 7:40, viewed from biologyonline.com.