EPA analysis shows reduction in 2009 toxic chemical releases

December 17, 2010 | EPA

Agency completes analysis on chemical disposal and release

WASHINGTON (EPA) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is releasing its annual national analysis of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), providing Americans with vital information about their communities. The TRI program publishes information on toxic chemical disposals and releases into the air, land and water, as well as information on waste-management and pollution-prevention activities in neighborhoods across the country. In 2009, 3.37 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the environment, a 12 percent decrease from 2008. TRI was recently recognized by the Aspen Institute as one of the 10 major ways that EPA has strengthened America.

“The Toxics Release Inventory is an important way to inform American communities about their local environmental conditions. It plays a critical role in EPA’s efforts to hold polluters accountable and to acknowledge good corporate neighbors who put pollution prevention efforts in place,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We will continue to make every effort to put accessible, meaningful information in the hands of the American people. Widespread public access to environmental information is fundamental to the work EPA does every day.”

This year, EPA is offering additional information to make the TRI data more meaningful and accessible to all communities. The TRI analysis now highlights toxic disposals and releases to large aquatic ecosystems, selected urban communities, and tribal lands. In addition, portions of the analysis are available in Spanish for the first time.

The analysis, which includes data on approximately 650 chemicals from more than 20,000 facilities, found that total releases to air decreased 20 percent since 2008, while releases to surface water decreased 18 percent. Releases to land decreased 4 percent since 2008.

The analysis shows decreases in the releases of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals including lead, dioxin, and mercury. Total disposal or other releases of mercury decreased 3 percent since 2008, while total disposal or other releases of both dioxin and lead decreased by 18 percent. The analysis also shows a 7 percent decrease in the number of facilities reporting to TRI from the previous year, continuing a trend from the past few years. Some of this decline may be attributed to the economic downturn; however, EPA plans to investigate why some facilities reported in 2008 but not 2009.

EPA added 16 chemicals to the TRI list of reportable chemicals in November. These chemicals are reasonably anticipated to be human carcinogens, and represent the largest chemical expansion of the program in a decade. Data on the new TRI chemicals will be reported by facilities on July 1, 2012.

Facilities must report their chemical disposals and releases by July 1 of each year. This year, EPA made the 2009 preliminary TRI dataset available in July, the same month as the data were collected. This is the earliest release of TRI data to the public ever.

TRI was established in 1986 by the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and later modified by the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990. Together, these laws require facilities in certain industries to report annually on releases, disposal and other waste-management activities related to these chemicals. TRI data are submitted annually to EPA and states by multiple industry sectors including manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous-waste facilities.

More information on the 2009 TRI analysis