WASHINGTON, DC, Mar. 19, 2009 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is making available the most recent reporting on the amount of toxic chemicals released into the U.S. environment. According to the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory, the latest data, from the calendar year 2007, show an overall decrease of five percent in releases since 2006. Releases to air decreased seven percent and releases to water decreased five percent.
"This information underscores the need for fundamental transparency and provides a powerful tool for protecting public health and the environment," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "Serving the public's right to know is the crucial first step in reducing toxic chemicals in the places where we live, work, and raise children."
"I'm also pleased," Jackson added, 'that Congress under the leadership of Senator Lautenberg took action to restore the rigorous reporting standards of this vital program."
The report shows increases in the releases of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals like lead, dioxin, mercury and PCBs. Overall PBTs releases increased one percent. The increases were primarily due to a handful of facilities, and most of the releases reported were not to the air or water.
Total disposal or other releases of mercury increased 38 percent, but air emissions of mercury were down three percent. The majority of mercury releases were reported by the mining industry.
PCB releases went up 40 percent. EPA banned the production of PCBs in the U.S. in 1979 and disposing of it safely to permitted, hazardous waste landfills is the final important step in removing it from use. Dioxin releases or disposal increased 11 percent. Lead releases increased by one percent. The majority of lead released was by the mining industry to land.
This year's annual publication of the data includes 650 chemicals from 22,000 facilities. TRI provides the American public with vital information on chemical releases to communities and is an important tool industry can use to gauge its progress in reducing pollution. TRI reporting includes toxics managed in landfills and underground injection wells as well as those released into water and the air.
TRI tracks the chemicals and industrial sectors specified by the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986 and its amendments. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 also mandates that TRI reports include data on toxic chemicals treated on site, recycled, and burned for energy recovery. Together, these laws require facilities in certain industries to report annually on releases, disposal and other waste management activities related to these chemicals.
Recently, TRI reporting changed with the 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 11. The new law returns TRI to the more comprehensive reporting requirements that were in effect before December 21, 2006.