The amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment decreased by 4% from 2003 to 2004, according to the U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI).
“Today's report demonstrates that economic growth and effective environmental protection can go hand-in-hand,” said Linda Travers, acting assistant administrator for the Office of Environmental Information. “We are encouraged to see a continued reduction in the overall amount of toxic chemicals being released into the environment.”
Significant decreases were seen in some of the most toxic chemicals from 2003 to 2004: dioxin and dioxin compounds decreased by 58%, mercury and mercury compounds were cut by 16% and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) went down 92%.
Industries were instrumental in getting the data to the public quickly and more efficiently. More than 23,000 facilities reported for calendar year 2004, and 90% used electronic reporting, which streamlined the process significantly.
EPA's 2004 TRI reporting includes toxics managed in landfills and underground injection wells in addition to those released into water and air and releases or other disposals of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals. PBT chemicals include dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, PCBs, mercury and mercury compounds, lead and lead compounds, and several pesticides. The amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment has declined 45% since 1998. It is important to review the full data in context, since in many cases changes from one year to the next are less important than long-term trends.
TRI 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 (PPA) of 1990 also mandates that TRI reports must 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.