Pollutant Information: Dioxins (PCDD/F) 

About Dioxins (PCDD/F)

Category: Air pollutants

Dioxins and furans (PCDD/F) are often simply referred to as ‘dioxins’. Emissions of dioxins have declined by 87% over the period 1990 to 2016. Dioxins can arise from any high temperature process where chlorine is present in any form. One of the largest sources of dioxins emissions in the past has been municipal solid waste (MSW) incineration; however, emissions from this source have fallen by 99.5% between 1990 and 2016, driven by the introduction of limits on the concentration of dioxins allowed in waste gases from these processes. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) incinerators not meeting the requirements closed in the period leading up to December 1996, and emissions from the sector were significantly reduced from then on. Plants dedicated to burning MSW or incinerating other wastes contributed around 45% of UK dioxin emissions in 1990 but only 2% of emissions in 2016. Emissions from petrol road vehicles have also decreased significantly – by 99% between 1990 and 2016. Emissions from road transport are associated with compounds previously added to leaded petrol. Consequently, the emissions of dioxins decrease in line with lead emissions from the Road Transport sector.

In recent years, the main sources of dioxins have been domestic combustion of solid fuels like wood and coal (33% of UK emissions in 2016), accidental fires and small-scale burning of waste such as on garden bonfires and on bonfire night (21%) and steel production (14%).

» View and Download Dioxins (PCDD/F) emission summary data

Time series graph


Notable events

Start year End year Sector Information Impact
1990 1995 Waste Incineration & Combustion of fuels (Combustion Residential Commercial, Institutional). Closure of, and abatement fitted to UK waste incineration plant with and without energy recovery. Decrease in emissions
1993 1993 Agriculture Field burning of agricultural waste stopped after 1993. Decrease in emissions

Dioxins (PCDD/F) contributes to the following...

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