Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions (2023)

This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

Emission trends of sulphur oxides

Chart

Data sources:

  • National emissions reported to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)

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Table

Data sources:

  • National emissions reported to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)

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Change in emissions of sulphur oxides compared with the 2010 NECD and Gothenburg protocol targets

Chart

Data sources:

  • National emissions reported to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)

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Table

Data sources:

  • National emissions reported to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)

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(Video) SO2 | Sulphur Dioxide | Sources and health impacts| OIZOM Academy

Distance-to-target for sulphur oxides

Chart

Data sources:

  • National emissions reported to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)

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Table

Data sources:

  • National emissions reported to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)

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Significant progress in reducing SOXemissions has been made by many countries; EEA-33 emissions of SOXhave decreased by 74% between 1990 and 2011. Within the EEA-33 group of countries, all have reported lower emissions in 2011 compared to 1990, except Iceland (3.8 times greater) and Turkey (52% greater).

The large increase in SOXemissions in Iceland, from 21 kt in 1990 to 81 kt in 2011, is due chiefly to the reported emissions from the 'Energy production and distribution' sector rising by 51 kt since 1990. This sector alone now contributed 79% of Iceland's total emissions in 2011. These emissions are mostly comprised of fugitive emissions from the 'other energy extraction' sector, which includes sulphurous volcanic gas emissions from geothermal energy production. Many of these occur naturally but are only reported once they are part of an energy generation process.

All of the EU-28 Member States have reduced their national SOXemissions below the level of the 2010 emission ceilings set in the National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD).

Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey are not members of the European Union and hence have no emission ceilings set under the NECD. However, Norway and Switzerland have ratified the Gothenburg Protocol, requiring them to reduce their emissions to the agreed ceiling specified in the protocol by 2010. Liechtenstein has also signed, but not ratified the protocol. All three countries have reported that emissions in 2011 were lower than their respective 2010 Gothenburg Protocol ceilings.

The revision of the National Emission Ceilings Directive 2001/81/EC (NECD) is part of the implementation of the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution. The proposal to amend the NECD is still under preparation and should set emission ceilings to be respected by 2020 for the four already regulated substances (NOX, NMVOC, SOXand NH3), as well as for the primary emissions of PM2.5. A revision of the Gothenburg protocol was published in June 2012, and proposed percentage emission reductions from 2005 levels to be met by 2020 for the four already regulated substances and primary emissions of PM2.5. Existing emission ceilings for 2010 have been extended to 2020 such that all countries have additional obligations to maintain emission levels below their 2010 ceilings, or to further reduce emissions if they have not yet met these ceilings.

Nine of the EU-28 Member States have already met the 2020 targets proposed under the Gothenburg protocol, and all of the remaining countries except five (Germany, Lithuania, Finland, Malta and Estonia) are on track to reduce emissions to their ceiling by or before 2020.

Of the five non-EU countries within the EEA-33, only Norway and Switzerland have 2020 targets proposed under the Gothenburg protocol. Both of these countries reported emissions in 2011 that were lower than their 2020 emission ceilings.

Change in sulphur oxides emissions for each sector

Chart

Data sources:

  • National emissions reported to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)

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Table
(Video) Sulfur dioxide (SO2) measurement – Part 1. Measurement procedures

Data sources:

  • National emissions reported to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)

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Contribution to total change in sulphur oxides emissions for each sector

Chart

Data sources:

  • National emissions reported to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)

Explore chart interactively

Table

Data sources:

  • National emissions reported to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) provided by European Environment Agency (EEA)

Explore chart interactively

Substantial SOXemission reductions have been made across a number of sectors including: 'Waste' (84% reduction between 1990 and 2011), 'Energy production and distribution' (76%), 'Energy use in industry' (72%) and 'Commercial, institutional and households' (67%).

The 'Energy production and distribution' sector (encompassing activities such as power and heat generation) is responsible for the largest reduction in absolute terms of emissions, contributing 65% of the total reduction in SOXemissions reported by countries. Nevertheless, despite this significant reduction, this single sector remains the most significant source of SOXin the EEA-33 region, contributing over half of total SOXemissions in 2011. Across Europe, there is also an increasing awareness of the contribution made to SOXemissions by national and international ship traffic, and especially the health effects of such emissions whilst at berth (a more detailed discussion of this issue is contained in the TERM indicator fact sheet TERM03 - Transport emissions of air pollutants). From 1 January 2010, all ships using fuel at berth in EU ports for significant periods were required to use exclusively low-sulphur fuel (0.1%), and from 1 July 2010, withinSulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) defined in the North Sea, English Channel and Baltic Sea, all ships were required to use fuel with sulphur content not exceeding 1.0%. EEA33 countries have reported a reduction in emissions from national navigation (shipping) of 7.8% between 2009 and 2011, and further reductions in later years may be expected as additional legislation comes into force.

A combination of measures has led to the reductions in SOXemissions. This includes fuel-switching from high-sulphur solid (e.g. coal) and liquid (e.g. heavy fuel oil) fuels to low sulphur fuels (such as natural gas) for power and heat production purposes within the energy, industry and domestic sectors, improvements in energy efficiency, and the installation of flue gas desulphurisation equipment in new and existing industrial facilities where high-sulphur fuels are used. The implementation of several directives within the EU, limiting the sulphur content of transport fuel, has also contributed to decrease.

The newer Member States of the European Union have, in a number of cases, also undergone significant economic structural changes since the early 1990s, which have led to a general decline in certain activities that previously contributed significantly to high levels of sulphur emissions (e.g. heavy industry) and the closure of older, less efficient, power plants.

Supporting information

Indicator definition

  • The indicator tracks trends since 1990 in anthropogenic emissions of sulphur dioxide.
  • The indicator also provides information on emissions by sector: energy production and distribution; energy use in industry;, industrial processes; road transport; non-road transport; commercial, institutional and households; solvent and product use; agriculture; waste; other.
  • Geographical coverage: EEA-32. The EEA-32 country grouping includes countries of the EU-27 (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) EFTA-4 (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway) and Turkey.
  • Temporal coverage: 1990-2010

Units

ktonnes (1000 tonnes)


Rationale

Justification for indicator selection

Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is emitted when fuels containing sulphur are combusted. Sulphur dioxide is a pollutant that contributes to acid deposition, which, in turn, can lead to potential changes in soil and water quality. The subsequent impacts of acid deposition can be significant, including adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems in rivers and lakes and damage to forests, crops and other vegetation. In many cases, the deposition of acidifying substances still exceeds the critical loads of the ecosystems(see EEA indicator CSI 005 'Exposure of ecosystems to acidification, eutrophication and ozone').Acidification can also damage buildings and cultural monuments. Further details concerning emissions of acidifying pollutants are provided in EEA's Core Set Indicator CSI 001 'Emissions of acidifying substances'.

As a secondary particulate matter precursor, SO2also contributes to the formation of particulate aerosols in the atmosphere. Particulate matter is an important air pollutant due to its adverse impacts on human health, and SO2is therefore also indirectly linked to effects on human health (see EEA's Core Set Indicator CSI 003 'Emissions of primary particles and secondary particulate precursors' for further details concerning emissions of particulate matter).

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Policy context and targets

Context description

A number of policies have been implemented within Europe that either directly or indirectly act to reduce emissions of SO2. These include:

  • The National Emission Ceilings Directive 2001/81/EC (NECD), which entered into force in the European Community in 2001: The NECD sets emission ceilings for four important air pollutants (SO2, nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia (NH3) and non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOCs)) to be achieved from 2010 onwards for each Member State. The ceilings are designed to improve the protection of the environment and human health in the Community against risks of adverse effects arising from acidification, eutrophication and ground level ozone. The NECD is presently under review, the European Commission may adopt a proposal for a revised Directive during 2010.
  • The Gothenburg Protocol (1999) to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's (UNECE) Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) to abate acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone: A key objective of the protocol is to regulate emissions on a regional basis within Europe and to protect eco-systems from transboundary pollution by setting emission reduction ceilings to be reached by 2010 for the same four pollutants as addressed in the NECD (i.e. SO2, NOx, NH3 and NMVOCs). Overall, for EU Member States, the ceilings set within the Gothenburg protocol are generally either slightly less strict or the same as the emission ceilings specified in the NECD.

  • The Directive for the Sulphur content of Certain Fuels (93/12/EC): This requires Member States to cease the use of heavy fuel oil with a sulphur content greater than 1% by mass from 2001, and the use of gas oil with a sulphur content greater than 0.2% from 2001 and greater than 0.1% from 2008.

  • The Large Combustion Plant Directive 2001/80/EC (LCPD): This is important in reducing emissions of SO2, NOx and dust from combustion plants with a thermal input capacity equal to or greater than 50 MW. Installations within the scope of this Directive include power stations, petroleum refineries, steelworks and other industrial processes running on solid, liquid and gaseous fuels. "New" plants must meet the emission limit values (ELVs) given in the LCPD. However Member States can choose to meet obligations for existing plants (i.e. those in operation pre-1987) by either complying with the ELVs or by operating within a national emission reduction plan (NERP) that sets a ceiling for each pollutant. The interaction of the LCPD and the IPPC Directive (see below) is currently being examined as part of a review of the IPPC Directive.

  • The Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (96/61/EC), which entered into force in 1999: This Directive aims to prevent or minimise pollution to air, water or land from various industrial sources throughout the European Union. Those installations covered by Annex I of the IPPC Directive are required to obtain authorisation from the authorities to operate. New installations and existing installations, which are subject to 'substantial changes', have been obliged to meet the requirements of the IPPC Directive since 30 October 1999. Other existing installations must have been brought into compliance by the 30 October 2007. The emission limit values outlined in the permit conditions must be based on best available techniques (BAT). The Commission has been undertaking a review of the IPPC Directive and related legislation on industrial emissions and, on 21 December 2007, adopted a proposal for a Directive on industrial emissions. The proposal recasts seven existing Directives relating to industrial emissions (including IPPC and the LCPD) into a single legislative instrument.

  • The aim of the Directive 96/62/EC on ambient air quality assessment and management (the 'Air Quality Framework Directive') is to maintain and improve air quality within the European Community by establishing objectives for ambient air, drawing up common methods and criteria for assessing air quality and obtaining and disseminating information. The "Daughter" Directive 99/30/EC of the Air Quality Framework Directive entered into force in 1999 and sets limit values for concentrations of several pollutants including sulphur dioxide.

  • The European Sulphur Content of Marine Fuels Directive (SCMFD) (2005/33/EC): This requires "Member States to ensure that marine gas oils are not placed on the market in their territory if the sulphur content exceeds 0.1% by mass", amongst other requirements.

  • The Marpol Convention: This convention covers the prevention of pollution of the marine environment by ships from operational or accidental causes. It is a combination of two treaties adopted in 1973 and 1978 and updated by amendments over the years since. Annex VI covers the prevention of air pollution from ships and sets limits on sulphur dioxide emissions from ship exhausts. This came into force in May 2005.
  • Fuel quality Directive 98/70/EC and sulphur-free fuels Directive 2003/17/EC: Current market grade petrol and diesel fuels do not have a sulphur level exceeding 50 parts per million (ppm). This is the maximum level of sulphur permitted for road fuels in EU Member States from 2005 under the fuel quality Directive 98/70/EC. The introduction of "sulphur-free fuels", with sulphur levels less than 10 ppm, is required by 1 January 2009 under Directive 2003/17/EC.

Targets

Emissions of SO2 are covered by the EU National Emission Ceilings Directive (NECD) (2001/81/EC) and the Gothenburg protocol under the United Nations Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention) (UNECE 1999). The NECD generally involves slightly stricter emission reduction targets than the Gothenburg Protocol for EU-15 Member States for the period 1990-2010. The Gothenburg Protocol entered into forceon 17 May 2005, after ratification by 16 countries early in 2005. The 2012 revision to the Gothenburg protocol proposed emission reduction targets for 2020 relative to 2005 reported emissions for all EU-27 Member States and some EEA-32 non-EU member states.

Table: 2010 SO2 ceilings under the NEC Directive and the Gothenburg Protocol (kt)

Country

2010 NECD
ceilings

2010 CLRTAP Gothenburg Protocol ceilings

2020 CLRTAP Gothenburg Protocol ceilings

Austria393962
Belgium9910670
Bulgaria83685658
Cyprus39N/A5
Czech Republic26528376
Denmark555563
Estonia100N/A10
Finland11011631
France375400635
Germany520550544
Greece52354663
Hungary50055072
Iceland*N/AN/AN/A
Ireland4242108
Italy475500395
Latvia10110716
LiechtensteinN/A0.11N/A
Lithuania14514535
Luxembourg445
Malta9N/A2
Netherlands5050123
NorwayN/A2221
Poland13971397267
Portugal16017047
Romania918918173
Slovakia11011025
Slovenia272718
Spain746774354
SwitzerlandN/A2659
Sweden676747
Turkey*N/AN/AN/A
United Kingdom585625282

* Iceland and Turkey do not have a ceiling under either the NEC Directive or the Gothenburg protocol.

Related policy documents

  • Council Directive 96/61/EC (IPPC)

    Council Directive 96/61/EC of 24 September 1996 concerning Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC). Official Journal L 257.

  • Council Directive 96/62/EC of 27 September 1996

    Council Directive 96/62/EC of 27 September 1996 on ambient air quality assessment and management.

  • Directive 98/70/EC, quality of petrol and diesel fuels

    Directive 98/70/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 1998 relating to the quality of petrol and diesel fuels and amending Directive 93/12/EEC

  • Directive 2001/80/EC, large combustion plants

    Directive 2001/80/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2001 on the limitation of emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants

  • Directive 2001/81/EC, national emission ceilings

    Directive 2001/81/EC, on nation al emissions ceilings (NECD) for certain atmospheric pollutants. Emission reduction targets for the new EU10 Member States have been specified in the Treaty of Accession to the European Union 2003 [The Treaty of Accession 2003 of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia. AA2003/ACT/Annex II/en 2072] in order that they can comply with the NECD.

  • Sulphur content of Certain Fuels (93/12/EC)

    Requires Member States to cease the use of heavy fuel oil with a sulphur content greater than 1% by mass from 2001, and the use of gas oil with a sulphur content greater than 0.2% from 2001 and greater than 0.1% from 2008

  • UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution

    UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution.

(Video) 8.5 Reduction of SO2 and NOx emissions (SL)

Methodology

Methodology for indicator calculation

This indicator is based on officially reported national total and sectoral emissions to the EEA and UNECE/EMEP (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe/Co-operative programme for monitoring and evaluation of the long-range transmission of air pollutants in Europe) Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention), submission 2011. For the EU-27 Member States, the data used is consistent with the emissions data reported by the EU in its annual submission to the LRTAP Convention.

Recommended methodologies for emission inventory estimation are compiled in the EMEP/EEA Air Pollutant Emission Inventory Guidebook, (EMEP/EEA, 2009). Base data are available from the EEA Data Service (http://dataservice.eea.europa.eu/dataservice/metadetails.asp?id=1096) and the EMEP web site (http://www.ceip.at/). Where necessary, gaps in reported data are filled by European Topic Centre/EEA using simple interpolation techniques (see below). The final gap-filled data used in this indicator is available from the EEA Data Service (http://dataservice.eea.europa.eu/PivotApp/pivot.aspx?pivotid=478)

Base data, reported in the UNECE/EMEP Nomenclature for Reporting (NFR) sector format are aggregated into the following EEA sector codes to obtain a consistent reporting format across all countries and pollutants:

  • Energy production and distribution: emissions from public heat and electricity generation, oil refining, production of solid fuels, extraction and distribution of solid fossil fuels and geothermal energy;
  • Energy use in industry: emissions from combustion processes used in the manufacturing industry including boilers, gas turbines and stationary engines;
  • Industrial processes: emissions derived from non-combustion related processes such as the production of minerals, chemicals and metal production;
  • Road transport: light and heavy duty vehicles, passenger cars and motorcycles;
  • Non-road transport: railways, domestic shipping, certain aircraft movements, and non-road mobile machinery used in agriculture and forestry;
  • Commercial, institutional and households: emissions principally occurring from fuel combustion in the services and household sectors;
  • Solvent and product use: non-combustion related emissions mainly in the services and households sectors including activities such as paint application, dry-cleaning and other use of solvents;
  • Agriculture: manure management, fertiliser application, field-burning of agricultural wastes
  • Waste: incineration, waste-water management;
  • Other: emissions included in national total for entire territory not allocated to any other sector.

The following table shows the conversion of Nomenclature for Reporting (NFR) sector codes used for reporting by countries into EEA sector codes:

EEA classification

Non-GHGs (NFR)

National totals

National total

Energy production and distribution

1A1, 1A3e, 1B

Energy use in industry

1A2

Road Transport

1A3b

Non-road transport (non-road mobile machinery)

(Video) Maximizing sulfur dioxide removal in flue gases using zirconia oxygen analyzers

1A3 (excl. 1A3b)

Industrial processes

2

Solvent and product use

3

Agriculture

4

Waste

6

Commercial, institutional and households

1A4ai, 1A4aii, 1A4bi, 1A4bii, 1A4ci, 1A4cii, 1A5a, 1A5b

Other

7

Methodology for gap filling

An improved gap-filling methodology was implemented in 2010 that enables a complete time series trend for the main air pollutants (eg NOX, SOX, NMVOC, NH3 and CO) to be compiled. In cases where countries did not report emissions for any year, it meant that gap-filling could not be applied. For these pollutants, therefore, the aggregated data is not yet complete and is likely to underestimate true emissions. Further methodological details of the gap-filling procedure are provided in section 1.4.2 'Data gaps and gap-filling' of the European Union emission inventory report 1990–2009 under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP).

Methodology references

  • EEA (2011). European Union emission inventory report 1990 — 2009 under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP). EEA technical report No 9/2011. Copenhagen.
  • EMEP/EEA (2009). EMEP/EEA Air Pollutant Emission Inventory Guidebook - 2009 This 2009 update of the emission inventory guidebook prepared by the UNECE/EMEP Task Force on Emissions Inventories and Projections provides a comprehensive guide to state-of-the-art atmospheric emissions inventory methodology. Its intention is to support reporting under the UNECE Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution and the EU National Emission Ceilings Directive.
  • EMEP (2010). Transboundary, acidification, eutrophication and ground level ozone in Europe in 2008 Estimated dispersion of acidifying and eutrophying compounds and comparison with observations.

Uncertainties

Methodology uncertainty

The use of gap-filling when countries have not reported emissions for one or more years can potentially lead to artificial trends, but it is considered unavoidable if a comprehensive and comparable set of emissions data for European countries is required for policy analysis purposes.

Data sets uncertainty

SO2 emission estimates in Europe are thought to have an uncertainty of about ±10% as the sulphur comes from the fuel burnt and therefore can be accurately estimated. However, because of the need for interpolation to account for missing data, the complete dataset used will have higher uncertainty. EMEP has compared modelled and measured concentrations throughout Europe (EMEP 2010). From these studies, differences in the annual averages have been estimated to be ±30%, which is consistent with an inventory uncertainty of ±10% (there are also uncertainties in the measurements and especially the modelling). The trend is likely to be much more accurate than individual absolute values

Overall scoring: (1-3, 1=no major problems, 3=major reservations)

  • Relevancy: 1
  • Accuracy: 2
  • Comparability over time: 2
  • Comparability over space: 2

Rationale uncertainty

This indicator is regularly updated by the EEA and is used in state of the environment assessments. The uncertainties related to methodology and data sets are therefore of importance. Any uncertainties involved in the calculation and in the data sets need to be accurately communicated in the assessment, to prevent erroneous messages influencing policy actions or processes.

Data sources

  • National Emission Ceilings (NEC) Directive Inventory
    provided by Directorate-General for Environment (DG ENV)
  • National emissions reported to the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP Convention)
    provided by United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

Other info

DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Performance indicator (Type B - Does it matter?)

Indicator codes

  • APE 001

Frequency of updates

This indicator is discontinued. No more assessments will be produced.

EEA Contact Info info@eea.europa.eu

FAQs

What is SO2 emission? ›

Sulfur dioxide (SO2), a foul-smelling toxic gas, is part of a larger group of chemicals called sulfur oxides. These gases, especially SO2, are emitted by the burning of fossil fuels or other materials that contain sulfur.

What accounts for 70% of sulfur dioxide emissions in the atmosphere? ›

The largest source of SO2 in the atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuel that contains sulfur, such as coal or oil, in power plants and other industrial facilities.

What is the main cause of SO2 emissions? ›

Most of the sulfur dioxide released into the environment comes from electric utilities, especially those that burn coal. Some other sources of sulfur dioxide include petroleum refineries, cement manufacturing, paper pulp manufacturing, and metal smelting and processing facilities.

How can I lower my SO2 emissions? ›

Approaches for Limiting Emissions

Since sulfur emissions are proportional to the sulfur content of the fuel, an effective means of reducing SOx emissions is to burn low-sulfur fuel such as natural gas, low-sulfur oil, or low-sulfur coal. Natural gas has the added advantage of emitting no particulate matter when burned.

How much SO2 is safe? ›

Standards and guideline values to protect health

The average concentrations of sulphur dioxide should not exceed the 350 µg/m3 standard more than nine times a year and should not exceed the 570 µg/m3 standard at all. The national ambient air quality guideline for sulphur dioxide is 120 µg/m3 as a 24-hour average.

Why is SO2 harmful to the environment? ›

Environmental effects

When sulfur dioxide combines with water and air, it forms sulfuric acid, which is the main component of acid rain. Acid rain can: cause deforestation. acidify waterways to the detriment of aquatic life.

What is normal SO2 level in air? ›

Annual mean concentrations in such areas are now mainly in the range 20–60 µg/m3 (0.007–0.021 ppm), with daily means seldom more than 125 µg/m3 (0.044 ppm).

How much SO2 is in the atmosphere? ›

Sulfur dioxide is found on Earth and exists in very small concentrations and in the atmosphere at about 1 ppm.

How long does SO2 stay in the atmosphere? ›

The atmospheric lifetime of sulfur dioxide is about 10 days (IARC 1992). Sulfur dioxide is oxidized rapidly by both homogeneous and heterogeneous reactions and is removed from the atmosphere by precipitation and by dry deposition on surfaces, mainly as sulfuric acid.

What is SO2 used for? ›

Sulfur dioxide is used in many industries. It's used to manufacture sulfuric acid, paper, and food preservatives. Some examples of workers at risk of being exposed to sulfur dioxide include the following: Factory workers in industries where it occurs as a by-product, such as copper smelting or power plants.

How have SO2 emissions changed over time? ›

Since the turn of the century, annual SO2 emissions in the U.S. have declined by almost 90 percent. The reduction in SO2 is largely due to the implementation of the Acid Rain Program under the Clean Air Act through a cap and trade program for fossil-fuel powered plants.

How is SO2 is an air pollutant? ›

It is an air pollutant because it can produce pollutants including particulate matter, sulfate aerosols, and most dangerous of all, acid rain, which has a very negative impact on the ecosystem. Sulfuric acid ( H 2 SO 4 ) is created when it mixes with atmospheric water vapor. This results in acid rain.

Is sulfur dioxide harmful to humans? ›

What Are the Health Effects of Sulfur Dioxide Air Pollution? Sulfur dioxide causes a range of harmful effects on the lungs, as the EPA's most recent review of the science concluded: Wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness and other problems, especially during exercise or physical activity.

What does SO2 gas smell like? ›

Sulfur dioxide has a pungent, irritating odour, familiar as the smell of a just-struck match.

Is SO2 a greenhouse gas? ›

Carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide are classified under greenhouse gases. This is because their accumulation leads to the warming of the atmosphere due to greenhouse effect. This, in turn, leads to a phenomenon known as global warming.

Which country emits the most sulfur dioxide? ›

Environment > SO2 emissions per populated area: Countries Compared
#COUNTRYAMOUNT
1Belgium21,390 thousand metric tons/squ
2South Korea19,430 thousand metric tons/squ
3Jamaica17,050 thousand metric tons/squ
4Czech Republic7,980 thousand metric tons/squ
117 more rows
18 May 2005

What is good air quality? ›

The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. For example, an AQI value of 50 represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health, while an AQI value over 300 indicates hazardous air quality.

How air quality is measured? ›

The Short Answer: Air quality is measured with the Air Quality Index, or AQI. The AQI works like a thermometer that runs from 0 to 500 degrees. However, instead of showing changes in the temperature, the AQI is a way of showing changes in the amount of pollution in the air.

How do you test air quality in your home? ›

How to test indoor air quality
  1. Purchase an indoor air quality monitor.
  2. Evaluate health symptoms.
  3. Monitor carbon monoxide and radon levels.
  4. Get an air purifier.
  5. Call an air quality professional.
27 Sept 2022

How does SO2 affect climate? ›

In addition to harming human health, the gas reacts with water vapor to produce acid rain. Sulfur dioxide also can react in the atmosphere to form aerosol particles, which can contribute to outbreaks of haze and influence the climate.

How is SO2 formed in the atmosphere? ›

SO2 is emitted in the atmosphere when humans burn fuels containing sulfur, such as coal and oil, through industrial processes. Some smaller sources include volcanic processes, metallic ore extraction processes, and vehicles that burn fuel with high sulfur content.

How is SO2 added to the atmosphere? ›

These gases, especially SO2, are emitted by the burning of fossil fuels — coal, oil, and diesel — or other materials that contain sulfur. Sources include power plants, metals processing and smelting facilities, and vehicles.

Does SO2 cause global warming? ›

Large volumes of SO2 erupted frequently appear to overdrive the oxidizing capacity of the atmosphere resulting in very rapid Warming. Such warming and associated acid rain becomes extreme when millions of cubic kilometers of basalt are erupted in much less than one million years.

Does SO2 cool the climate? ›

Sulfur emissions cool the planet in two ways, directly and indirectly. The direct way is that when sulfur dioxide is further oxidized in the atmosphere, it can form particles that reflect sunlight back into space. This happens in large volcanic eruptions, which can release tens of millions of tons of sulfur dioxide.

Does SO2 cool the Earth? ›

The SO2 converts to sulfuric acid aerosols that block incoming solar radiation and contribute to ozone destruction. The blocked solar radiation can cause global cooling. The amount of SO2 released by volcanoes is much less compared to man-made sources but the impact of some eruptions might be disproportionately large.

What happens when SO2 reacts with water? ›

Sulfurous acid and sulfites. Sulfur dioxide dissolves in water to give solutions that contain sulfurous acid, H2SO3.

Is SO2 gas explosive? ›

Sulfur Dioxide itself does not burn. POISONOUS GASES ARE PRODUCED IN FIRE, including Sulfur Oxides. CONTAINERS MAY EXPLODE IN FIRE.

Where in the US are most of the SO2 emissions? ›

The Martin Lake Power Station in Texas produced 48,783 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) in 2021. This was the largest volume of SO2 emissions produced by a U.S. power plant that year. Martin Lake is a coal-fired power plant and one of the biggest carbon polluters in the U.S.

How does sulfur dioxide affect plants? ›

Sulfur dioxide inhibits photosynthesis by disrupting the photosynthetic mechanism. The opening of the stomata is promoted by sulfur dioxide, resulting in an excessive loss of water. The cumulative effect of sulferous pollution is to reduce the quantity and quality of plant yield.

Is sulphur dioxide good for health? ›

Sulphur dioxide is widely used in the food and drinks industries for its properties as a preservative and antioxidant. Whilst harmless to healthy persons when used in recommended concentrations, it can induce asthma when inhaled or ingested by sensitive subjects, even in high dilution.

What is the difference between CO2 and SO2? ›

For example, compare CO2 and SO2. Carbon dioxide is a linear molecule while sulfur dioxide is a bent molecule. Both molecules contain polar bonds (see bond dipoles on the Lewis structures below), but carbon dioxide is a nonpolar molecule while sulfur dioxide is a polar molecule.

Is SO2 a greenhouse gas? ›

Carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide are classified under greenhouse gases. This is because their accumulation leads to the warming of the atmosphere due to greenhouse effect. This, in turn, leads to a phenomenon known as global warming.

Do cars emit SO2? ›

Sulfur dioxide (SO2).

Power plants and motor vehicles create this pollutant by burning sulfur-containing fuels, especially diesel and coal. Sulfur dioxide can react in the atmosphere to form fine particles and, as other air pollutants, poses the largest health risk to young children and asthmatics.

Is there SO2 in natural gas? ›

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is an acid-rain forming waste product emitted when natural gas is burned in power plants to make electricity. For every gigawatt hour (GWh) of electricity generated, natural gas plants emit about 5 pounds of SO2.

Which chemical test is common for SO2 and CO2 gases? ›

Solution. Carbon dioxide [CO2]: Pass the gas through acidified potassium permanganate solution pink colour does not change. Sulphur dioxide [SO2]: Potassium permanganate sol. pink colour changes to clear colourless.

What are the major emission sources of SO2 and NOx? ›

The main sources of SO2 are power plants. Nitrogen dioxide comes from the burning of fossil fuels (like gasoline). The main sources of NO2 are cars, trucks, and power plants.

Which physical test can be used to distinguish between CO2 and SO2? ›

Carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide can be distinguished by using acidified potassium dichromate paper. It cannot be distinguish by using lime water as both the gases turns lime water milky.

Does SO2 cause global warming? ›

Large volumes of SO2 erupted frequently appear to overdrive the oxidizing capacity of the atmosphere resulting in very rapid Warming. Such warming and associated acid rain becomes extreme when millions of cubic kilometers of basalt are erupted in much less than one million years.

Does SO2 warm the atmosphere? ›

But volcanic gases like sulfur dioxide can cause global cooling, while volcanic carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, has the potential to promote global warming.

What is the use of SO2? ›

Sulfur dioxide is used in many industries. It's used to manufacture sulfuric acid, paper, and food preservatives. Some examples of workers at risk of being exposed to sulfur dioxide include the following: Factory workers in industries where it occurs as a by-product, such as copper smelting or power plants.

Which country emits the most sulfur dioxide? ›

Environment > SO2 emissions per populated area: Countries Compared
#COUNTRYAMOUNT
1Belgium21,390 thousand metric tons/squ
2South Korea19,430 thousand metric tons/squ
3Jamaica17,050 thousand metric tons/squ
4Czech Republic7,980 thousand metric tons/squ
117 more rows
18 May 2005

Does SO2 react with water? ›

Sulfur dioxide dissolves in water to give solutions that contain sulfurous acid, H2SO3. The following equilibria are established by sulfurous acid, which is a weak diprotic acid known only in solution. A large amount of the sulfur dioxide does not react with the water, but is simply physically in solution.

Is sulfur dioxide toxic to humans? ›

Sulfur dioxide is a severe irritant to the respiratory tract, eyes, mucous membranes, and skin. Exposure to high doses can cause pulmonary edema, bronchial inflammation, and laryngeal spasm and edema with possible airway obstruction. There is no antidote for sulfur dioxide.

Why SO2 is an air pollutant? ›

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is a gaseous air pollutant composed of sulfur and oxygen. SO2 forms when sulfur-containing fuel such as coal, oil, or diesel is burned. Sulfur dioxide also converts in the atmosphere to sulfates, a major part of fine particle pollution in the eastern U.S.

How much SO2 is produced from coal? ›

The EPA estimates that more than 65%, or over 13 million tons per year, of SO2 production in the U.S. comes from electric utilities, 93 percent of which is produced by coal power plants.

How much SO2 does a coal power plant produce? ›

In 1997, each megawatthour of coal-fired electricity generation produced 14.6 pounds of SO2 and 6.4 pounds of NOx. By 2017, those rates had fallen to 2.4 pounds per megawatthour (lbs/MWh) and 1.5 lbs/MWh, respectively. The CAAA required several regulations that reduced emissions of SO2 and NOx.

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