Toxics Release Inventory

Turning Data into Action

By Jim Jones

I’ve always been amazed by the power of data. Given the right information at the right time, we have the power to transform our lives. During my time at EPA, we have worked with companies, manufacturing facilities, and professional organizations to reduce or eliminate the generation of hazardous substances and prevent pollution – a good thing for industry and for the American public. As part of our efforts to create a more sustainable future, we provide information to the public about chemicals, chemical releases, and pollution prevention practices.

One of our longstanding tools for providing this information is the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI collects information from industrial facilities on which toxic chemicals they’re using and how much of each is released into the environment. Information is power and time after time communities have used this information to effect change and take action to protect families and the environment. Making these data publicly available also gives companies an incentive to reduce pollution, and we’re seeing real results.

Over the past 15 years or more, pharmaceutical firms have implemented a wide array of green chemistry practices in their manufacturing processes. The environmental benefits that these green chemistry practices have had, and continue to have, are evident in the TRI information they submit to us. Between 2002 and 2014, the quantities of toxic chemicals reported annually by pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities to our TRI Program declined steadily by 58%.

Similar trends are observed in the TRI information submitted by facilities in the automotive manufacturing sector. Between 2004 and 2014, the quantities of toxic chemical releases to the environment and reported annually by automotive manufacturing facilities declined by 56%. This occurred at the same time that production within the automotive sector rose sharply. Despite the increase in production, since 2009, the quantities of toxics reported as released to the environment or otherwise managed as waste have not increased.

Data drives informed and empowered decision making. By leveraging TRI data to help identify industries that are practicing or can benefit from implementing green chemistry practices, we’re taking tangible steps to work with industry to protect human health and the environment.

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Better Data for Better Environmental Protection

header-learn3_0As the Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Environmental Information, I am privileged to oversee the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program, one of EPA’s most potent incentive-based tools for tackling environmental challenges, especially when leveraged with other EPA expertise and data.

Each year, more than 20,000 facilities across a broad spectrum of industries provide EPA with information about their releases of toxic chemicals to the air, land, and water, as well as information about their pollution prevention successes.

In addition to its utility to communities and the broader public, the TRI Program’s wide-ranging, annual, multi-media data provides my staff and I with a wealth of opportunities in which to work together with other offices across the Agency to bring about positive environmental change.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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The EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory National Analysis: Facilities Preventing Pollution

By Kara Koehrn

Our economy produces goods that we depend on in our daily lives, like pharmaceuticals, clothing and cars. Sometimes during the production of those goods, toxic chemicals are released into the environment. But what can be done? Are these inevitable or is there something businesses can do to reduce or even eliminate their releases?

As Americans, we are empowered with information to help answer these questions through EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). I work for TRI, and my coworkers and I are proud to continue a community-right-to-know tradition at EPA in which TRI provides information to the public about toxic chemical releases to air, water and land right on our website. But now we are going further, highlighting examples of how industry is preventing pollution. Here is just a sample:

  • In 2011, many electric utilities installed scrubbers on their stacks which reduced air releases of hazardous air pollutants, including hydrochloric acid and mercury.
  • In the chemical manufacturing industry, some facilities improved their maintenance and production schedules to reduce toxic chemical releases in 2011. One reported reducing ammonia releases to water (a contributor to eutrophication) after instituting better process control and operator training.
  • A facility in the computer and electronics sector reported that in response to a customer’s demand for lead-free services, it used a lead-free product surface finishing line in 2011, and expects to expand this service to other customers.

Facilities report real-world success stories like these to TRI each year, and we are highlighting them in our annual analysis of TRI data, the TRI National Analysis. We publish this report every year, but EPA employees aren’t the only ones who can analyze TRI data. You can use TRI’s new pollution prevention search tool to see which industrial facilities reported the largest reductions and what measures were most effective in achieving these results. Take a look!

I hope you check out the National Analysis and try the new pollution prevention tool to see what toxic chemicals are being released nationwide and what is being done to help clean up your air, water, and land. After all, 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 has recently sold her car to take full advantage of public transportation in D.C.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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