EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson

Latest Toxics Release Inventory Shows Increase in PCBs

According to the EPA's latest Toxics Release Inventory, which reports the amount of toxic chemicals released into the U.S. environment, the latest data, from the 2007 calendar year, show an overall decrease of five percent in releases since 2006. Releases to air decreased seven percent, and releases to water decreased five percent. However, the report shows increases in the releases of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals like lead, dioxin, mercury, and PCBs. Overall, PBT 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, EPA said. 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, according to the report. EPA banned the production of PCBs in the United States in 1979 and said disposing of the materials safely to permitted, hazardous waste landfills is the final important step in removing them 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 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, noting she was pleased that Congress, under the leadership of Senator Frank Lautenber (N.J.) took action to restore the program's rigorous reporting standards. "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."

This year's annual publication of the data includes 650 chemicals from 22,000 facilities. The report provides the American public with vital information on chemical releases to communities, and EPA says it 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.

The report 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 Dec. 21, 2006.

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