Total Toxic Chemical Releases Up in the US, While Air Toxics Decline

Air__optAccording to the Environmental Protection Agency, total toxic air releases in 2011 declined 8 percent from 2010, even while total releases of toxic chemicals increased for the second year in a row.

Since 1998, the EPA’s annual Toxic Release Inventory report has provided citizens with vital information about their communities. The TRI program collects information on certain toxic chemical releases to the air, water and land, as well as information on waste management and pollution prevention activities by facilities across the country. TRI data are submitted annually to EPA, states and tribes by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste facilities.

The 2011 TRI data show that 4.09 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were disposed of or released into the environment (i.e., air, water or land), an 8 percent increase from 2010. The difference is mainly due to increases in land disposal at metal mines, which typically involve large facilities handling large volumes of material. In this sector, even a small change in the chemical composition of the ore being mined – which EPA understands is one of the asserted reasons for the increase in total reported releases - can lead to big changes in the amount of toxic chemicals reported nationally. Other industry sectors also saw smaller increases in releases, including the hazardous waste management sector.

Among the Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPS) showing decline were hydrochloric acid and mercury. Likely reasons for the decreases seen over the past several years include installation of control technologies at coal fired power plants and a shift to other fuel sources.

EPA has improved this year’s TRI national analysis report by adding new information about facility efforts to reduce pollution, insights into why air releases are declining, and an enhanced analysis of releases on tribal lands. With this report and EPA’s web-based TRI tools, citizens can access information about TRI-listed toxic chemical releases in their communities and across the country.

More on the 2011 TRI analysis and TRI web-based tools can be found here.

More on facility efforts to reduce toxic chemical releases can be found here.

Source: EPA

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