1998 Toxics Release Inventory Summary of Data
by Guest Blogger, 2/28/2002
More than a decade of the public's right to know about toxic chemicals on the TRI list has resulted in a 45 percent decline in the release of those chemicals. In a sea of public, government and scientific ignorance of threats to public health and the environment, EPA dedicates significant time, effort and resources to gathering, storing, and publicly disclosing islands of detailed information about the nation's environment. This collection and dissemination of information is partly due to farsighted legislation, most notably the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA), which mandated that industry disclose releases of certain toxic chemicals and government disseminate the information to the public through electronic means. It is also due to pressure from public-interest groups, the news media, and individual citizens to ensure that EPCRA's public-access provisions were implemented. The 45 percent reduction in releases of toxic chemicals reflects only on- and off-site releases of chemicals for which industry disclosed releases under the Toxic Release Inventory program. The figure does not include transfers to processing and handling facilities for incineration or other disposal. Now including over 600 chemicals, the TRI program originally only included approximately 300 chemicals. Further, the bulk of the decline in releases is attributable to a decline in on-site releases from 1988 to 1998. While off-site releases declined for several years, they have jumped in recent years and increased overall between 1988 and 1998 by 2.0 million pounds, or 0.5 percent. On-site releases include those direct releases to the air, land and water that occur on the property of the facility and include releases such as occur through smokestacks, evaporation, wastewater discharges, and releases underground. In addition to releasing chemicals on-site, facilities can also discharge a toxic chemical to the environment by transferring waste to another location to be released to the environment. Finally, facilities can recapture waste and reuse the chemicals in the production process.