Waste and Biomass Valorization

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 1–20 | Cite as

Dioxins from Biomass Combustion: An Overview

  • Mengmei Zhang
  • Alfons Buekens
  • Xiaodong LiEmail author


Biomass combustion originating both from human activities and behaviour and from natural causes, has caused considerable concern as a result of the numerous pollutants emitted into the atmosphere, including polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, polychlorinated dibenzofurans and polychlorinated biphenyls, or in brief dioxins. The contribution of dioxins emissions from biomass combustion becomes more and more important, especially since evident guided emissions—principally from waste incineration and metallurgy—have been curtailed drastically. Different types of biofuels feature different chemical components, including cellulose, lignin, and proteins, and accompanying organic and inorganic compositions, thus showing different characteristics of dioxins generation. Combustion modes, either flaming or smouldering combustion, also show considerable influence on the amounts of dioxins emitted from the system and they may host distinct processes for forming dioxins. Lean in chlorine and catalytic copper, native biomass materials usually produce low emission factors. However, various contaminants are inevitably mixed into biofuels during combustion and significantly promote the dioxins generation. Emission factor data from a wide range of biomass burning sources are collated in the present review, suggesting that dioxins emissions are substantially influenced by the facilities used, their operating conditions and combustion processes, fuel composition, accidental addition of contaminants, etc. Their roles in biomass combustion and dioxins formation pathways, however, remain difficult to quantify, resulting in emission factor values stretching over several orders of magnitude and complicating the efforts to build a comprehensive global estimation of dioxins emissions from biomass burning.


Biomass combustion Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs) Dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls (dl-PCBs) Incineration Products of incomplete combustion Open burning 



2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid


Ammoniacal copper quaternary


Air pollution control devices




Brominated flame retardants


Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes


Copper boron azole




Chromated copper arsenate




Carbon monoxide


Carbon dioxide






Dioxin-like polychlorinated biphenyls


Differential scanning calorimetry


Emission factors


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Fixed carbon




International toxic equivalence quantity


Municipal solid waste incinerators


Non-methane organic compounds


Photochemical ozone


Open Burning Test Facility




Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons


Polychlorinated biphenyls


Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans


Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins


Polychlorinated dibenzofurans




Products of incomplete combustion


Particulate matter




Relative effect potency


Secondary organic aerosol


Tetrachlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxin


Toxic equivalency factors


Toxic equivalency


United Nations Environment Programme


Volatile matter


World Health Organization toxic equivalence quantity



The Program of Introducing Talents of Discipline to University (B08026) and the PaoYu-Kong International Fund financed this study. The text was presented as a Keynote Paper at the WasteEng2016 Conference, May 23–26, held at Albi (France). We thank Prof. Ange Nzihou and his collaborators for the perfect organisation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Clean Energy UtilizationZhejiang UniversityHangzhouChina

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