EPA Says Toxic Chemical Releases Decreased in 2009

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The EPA found that toxic chemicals released into the environment fell by 12 percent in 2009 over the previous year’s data.

The annual national analysis of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) shows that toxic chemical disposals and releases into the air, land and water came in at 3.37 billion pounds in 2009. 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, bio-accumulative, 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 data set available in July, the same month as the data were collected. The EPA added that the 2009 TRI data was the earliest release to the public in the program’s history, which dates back to 1986 when 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.