Our Toxics Release Inventory National Analysis: Toxic Chemical Releases in Your Neighborhood

By Kara Koehrn

Chemicals have been in the news a lot recently. That makes me curious about what is going on in my neighborhood.

Here in the United States, we’re lucky to have information available through EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program. I work on TRI, and it’s important to note that, typically, “release” means disposal of toxic chemicals by facilities operating under permits designed to protect human health and the environment. Only a small portion of the TRI release total is due to spills or leaks.  My coworkers and I are proud to continue the community-right-to-know tradition by providing you with information about toxic chemical releases to air, water, and land on our website.

Every year, we publish a summary of what is going on at a national level, called the TRI National Analysis. This year, we’re making it easy to interpret TRI data at a local level, too: we’re providing analyses for all 891 metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas across the United States. Each of these urban areas has its own high-level analysis that can tell you whether TRI chemical releases are increasing or decreasing over time, plus what chemicals and industries are involved. Would you like to know about the Denver area? What about Miami? How do they compare? Take a look! And, if you live in a rural area, type in your zip code or county information to find out what’s going on near you.

In its 27 years, TRI data has done a lot to empower citizens and communities. It’s been used to:

  • Roughly indicate facilities’ environmental performance over time.
  • Begin conversations with local facilities to encourage them to reduce releases, develop pollution prevention plans, and improve safety.
  • Set priorities and assign resources to the most pressing problems.

What will you do with the information you find?

I hope you check out the TRI National Analysis, and our new local analyses, to see what toxic chemicals are being disposed of or released in your neighborhood. After all, it’s your environment, and it’s your right to know.

About the author: Kara Koehrn joined EPA’s Office of Environment Information in Washington, D.C. in 2009 and is the project leader for the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) National Analysis. She sold her car two years ago to take full advantage of public transportation in D.C. and doesn’t even miss it.