By Caitlin Briere
In order to make the products on which we depend, like pharmaceuticals, clothing, and other manufactured goods, companies across the U.S. use thousands of chemicals in their normal operations. Many of the chemicals necessary to these economic activities are toxic. While most are managed so that they will not harm the environment, some releases of toxic chemicals occur. You have a right to know what chemicals are being used and released in your community.
A “release” refers to the emission, discharge, or disposal of chemicals by industrial facilities operating under permits designed to protect human health and the environment. Only a very small portion of annual release totals involve accidental releases such as chemical spills. The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) gives people access to data on these chemical releases as well as pollution prevention activities at industrial facilities across the country. I use this data to learn about industrial releases near my home or in a city I’m visiting. I also explore what facilities are doing to prevent pollution and reduce their releases, and how they compare to similar facilities across the US.
Each year, we take a close look at how facilities are managing toxic chemicals, and publish a report called the TRI National Analysis. In addition to providing a printable version of the report, this year we’ve completely redesigned the National Analysis website. You’ll find interlinked chapters that make it easier to navigate between topics, interactive graphics that tell the story of the TRI data, and links to EPA tools and resources that will help you explore EPA’s other environmental information.
I’m most excited about the new “Where You Live” feature, which provides information about chemical releases at local levels as well as national snapshots of releases to air, water, and land in all states. You can also explore analyses of U.S. metropolitan areas, major watersheds, and TRI facilities on Tribal lands. Do you want to know how industrial releases in your city compare to the rest of the country? Are you thinking of moving, and want to check out what facilities might be near your new neighborhood? The interactive maps in the “Where You Live” section can give you these answers.
I hope that you check out the new TRI National Analysis, and use these interactive analyses to find out what chemicals are being released in areas that you care about and what’s being done to prevent releases – because it’s your right to know.
About the author: Caitlin Briere joined EPA’s Office of Information Analysis and Access in 2010. She works on projects that focus on increasing public awareness and use of the TRI data, including the TRI National Analysis and the TRI University Challenge.