Emissions from fires to the atmosphere II

The amount of dioxins, PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) and VOC (volatile organic compounds) emitted from fires to the atmosphere per year has been estimated. The estimate is based on the number of fires in buildings, vehicles, waste and forest fires in Sweden in 1999. It is estimated that the total emission of dioxins from fires is in the range 0.5 - 1.4 g TEQ. The total emissions of PAH and VOC is in the ranges 2-12 ton and 13-200 ton, respectively.

The estimated emission of dioxins from fires has also been investigated and approximately corresponds to the total emission from traffic or half the emissions from municipal waste combustion (Swedish data from 1993).

The fire statistics show that the amount of material combusted in building fires during a year is approximately 7500 ton, while that from forest fires is 2600 ton. Additionally, 2000 - 3000 ton is combusted in vehicle fires, fires in containers etc. The total amount of material consumed in fires in 1999 was somewhat lower compared to the estimate in the previous study from 1994. A probable explanation is a decrease in the number of fires between 1994 and 1999. However, the structure of the fire statistics has changed since 1994, which may have influenced the result. The new structure of the fire statistics prevented any reliable assessment of the underlying reasons for the differences between 1994 and 1999.

In addition to the more common types of fires during a year, individual large incidents may contribute significantly to the total emission. Such incidents include fires in municipal landfills or specific waste storage facilities (such as those for used tyres). An assessment of the consequences of such incidents has been made. This assessment implies that a large contribution to the emission of dioxins could be expected from fires in landfills and from fires in waste plastics (PVC) and tyres. Fires in deposits of wood chips and tyres are also significant potential sources of PAH and VOC

Full details of the project results are found in the report P21-407/02 that can be ordered from the Swedish Rescue Services Agency. 

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Margaret Simonson McNamee

Phone: +46 10 516 52 19

SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, Box 857, SE-501 15 Borås Phone +46 10-516 50 00, E-mail info@sp.se