Pollutant Information: Copper 

About Copper

Category: Heavy metals and base cations

Acute effects of copper fumes can lead to irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, resulting in coughing, wheezing and nosebleeds. It may also cause 'metal fume fever', which is a flu-like illness that has symptoms of a metallic taste, fever, chill, aches and chest tightness. Chronic exposure may lead to decreased fertility in both men and women. Severe irritation and ulcers in the nose may also occur.

Emissions have decreased by 6% since 1990. Lubricants use in road vehicle engines contributed 45% of UK copper emissions in 2021. The other major source of copper emissions in the UK is vehicle brake pad wear which contributed 50% in 2021. Excluding lubricants use in road engine vehicles, emissions from other sources have declined by 19% since 1990, due to the decline in metal production, for example steel production and production of castings, and declining consumption of coal and, to a lesser extent, heavy fuel oil in power stations and industrial combustion plant.

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Time series graph

Notable events

Start year End year Sector Information Impact
1984 1985 Public Electricity and Heat Production Miners strike resulting in a reduction in the consumption of coal and an increase in the consumption of alternative fuels in power stations for that year. Decrease in emissions
1990 2017 Automotive tyre and brake wear Revised emission factors for tyre wear to be aligned with the 2016 EMEP/EEA 2016 Guidebook. This change in emission factor caused total Cu emissions to rise by an average of 275% for each year between 1990 and 2016 Increase in emissions

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