Field: Pollutant control
Global Technical function: Collecting
Technical Function Unit: Data analysing, Identifying, Modelling
Geographic Area: Germany


ESPREME project focuses on a data analysing approach for the primary heavy metals: mercury, cadmium, chrome, nickel, arsenic, and lead. The main objective of the research is to carry out cost-effectiveness (CEA) and cost-benefit analyses (CBA) for reducing the heavy metals occurrence in the EU Member States and candidate countries, also including a damage assessment of the environment and human health in the long term, and thresholds.  It is also important to identify which policies will result in the most cost-effective reduction of the occurrences of heavy metals in the environment;

Prior to the beginning of this project in 2004, there was no comprehensive research data on emissions of heavy metals for the whole of Europe including Accession regions. Some information about pollutant control did exist, but it was not a complete database. Estimations of the impacts of heavy metal emissions on human health and on the external costs were not available either.

The project was funded under the FP6 Call in the Research for Policy Support area (POLICIES-1.6 Assessment of environmental technologies for support of policy decisions). The Institute of Energy Economics and the Rational Use of Energy (IER) from the University of Stuttgart in Germany coordinated the project.

The core objectives of the project are to carry out cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analyses for the identification of strategies to reduce impacts from the release of heavy metals into the environment in Europe. Identifying the benefits would include a monetary valuation of the impacts with contingent valuation (CV) approaches (e.g. assessing the willingness-to-pay, WTP). The applied approach consists of the following steps:

  • Consolidating, improving and providing European-wide emission data of heavy metals.
  • Collecting systematic data on the possibilities to reduce emissions.
  • Improving models for the transport of Heavy Metal (HM) in the atmosphere, soil and water and apply them to simulate the transport of HM in these media.
  • Evaluating of modelling results vs. measurement data.
  • Gathering data on thresholds and information on exposure – response relationships.
  • Estimating the willingness to pay to avoid damage from HM exposure by transferring values from available contingent valuation studies.
  • Setting up an integrated assessment model (IAM).
  • Carrying out runs of the IAM to identify cost effectiveness strategies, i.e. bundles of measures that achieve compliance with thresholds and cost-benefit analyses to identify bundles of measures, where the difference between benefits and costs is maximised.
  • Conducting a feasibility study to identify approaches and further research needs for macro-economic assessment of HM abatement strategies.

The results, already available (level 9 in the TRL scale) provide valuable information for designing policies such as EC CAFÉ strategy and the ongoing reviews of the EC Air Quality legislation, i.e. 1999/30/EC and NEC Directive, as well as the UNECE Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollutions protocols. So, the results of the project directly support the mentioned review and the negotiations of the Commission Proposal COM (2003) 423 for a Daughter Directive on Heavy Metals, taking into account the recent position papers and EC induced analyses and provide input for the implementation of the UNECE Aarhus Protocol on Heavy Metals by providing detailed analyses of emissions, abatement options and related costs, leading to optimal emission control strategies for HM.

One notable outcome has been that the results of the project played an important role for the reduction of lead in the “unleaded” petrol. These results have also led to important evaluations and comparisons between different industrial techniques and processes, for example in the steel and cement industry. Additionally, UNECE (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe) has compiled regular data reports on heavy metal emissions in 51 countries. Data for heavy metal indicators were improved thanks to the project outcomes in the European countries.