EPA Analysis Shows Reduction in 2008 Toxic Chemical Releases

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released Tuesday its annual national analysis of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI database contains information on chemical releases into the air, land and water, as well as waste management and pollution prevention activities. The analysis of the 2008 data, the most recent data set available, shows that 3.86 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the environment, a 6 percent decrease from 2007.

The analysis, which includes data on 650 chemicals from more than 21,000 facilities, found that total releases to air decreased 14 percent, while releases to surface water increased 3 percent. This increase is partially attributed to a coal ash spill at a Tennessee Valley Authority facility in Kingston, Tenn. Releases to land remain virtually unchanged from 2007, showing a 0.1 percent increase.

The report shows decreases in the releases of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals including lead, dioxin, and mercury. Total disposal or other releases of mercury decreased 11 percent. Dioxin releases or disposal decreased 77 percent, while lead releases decreased by 2 percent. Releases of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) increased 121 percent. Because PCBs are no longer used in U.S. manufacturing, these releases represent the removal of PCBs from service for disposal at regulated hazardous waste facilities.

Five percent fewer facilities reported to TRI from the previous year, continuing a trend from the past few years. Some of this decline may be attributed to the economic downturn; however, the agency plans to investigate why some facilities reported in 2007 but not 2008.

More information on the 2008 TRI analysis: http://www.epa.gov/tri

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