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 2018. 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, during the 1990s the use of MSW incineration to generate energy increased leading to the emissions being reported under energy generation rather than municipal waste incineration. This means that the dioxins emissions from municipal waste incineration alone has dropped to 0 since 2001. During the same period, limits on the concentration of dioxins allowed in waste gases from these processes were introduced leading to a 75% reduction in total dioxins emissions between 1990 and 2001. Since 2001, dioxins emissions have continued to fall with the total 2018 emissions being 46% lower than the 2001 figure. Emissions from petrol road vehicles have also decreased significantly – by 99% between 1990 and 2018. 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 (37% of UK emissions in 2018), accidental fires and small-scale burning of waste such as on garden bonfires and on bonfire night (20%) and iron and steel production (13%).

» 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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