1988 Toxic Release Inventory National Report Available

[EPA press release - October 3, 1990]

A large proportion of 4.57 billion pounds of toxic chemicals released in 1988 was concentrated in only a few states and was emitted by a small percentage of 19,762 industrial plants that reported emissions, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report released today.

The 1988 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) National Report, "Toxics in the Community," based on the most recent data available, is the Agency's second annual account of nationwide toxic chemical releases from major industrial sources. A summary of the 1988 data was released on April 19, 1990.

Both the summary data and the final report released today indicate that in 1988, 0.36 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into rivers, lakes, streams and other bodies of water; 2.43 billion pounds were emitted into the air; 0.56 billion pounds were disposed of in landfills and 1.22 billion pounds were injected into underground wells.

An additional 0.57 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were sent to municipal wastewater treatment plants and 1.10 billion pounds were moved to other treatment and disposal facilities. EPA refers to the above categories as "off-site transfers" rather than releases.

"Through vigorous enforcement of environmental laws, through aggressive pollution prevention initiatives in the Great Lakes and elsewhere and through publicizing the TRI data, this Agency intends to make a tangible, measurable reduction in toxic emissions that harm human health and the environment," said EPA Administrator William K. Reilly.

"These data, which are available to any citizen, should be considered to be among the most important weapons in efforts to combat pollution," Reilly said. "Anyone can use them as a baseline to begin working toward reductions of excessive pollution from a local industry. EPA recently used these data to negotiate 80-percent reductions in toxic air emissions from the 40 worst emitting plants in the country. I also have called for a 30-percent-reduction goal for the country's most problematic air toxic chemicals.

"In addition to such actions, we again urge Congress to quickly pass a new Clean Air Act. The President's bill, when fully enacted, will require a 74 to 90 percent reduction in air toxic emissions throughout the country. It will be a vast improvement over the present Act, in which the air toxics provision sadly has not proved very effective," Reilly said.

TRI facilities reported a total of 6.2 billion pounds of releases and transfers, a decrease of almost 11 percent from 1987. TRI releases in 1988 were about nine percent lower than in 1987, while transfers decreased almost 15 percent.

While the decline is encouraging, the Agency cautions that only some of it is due to decreased waste generation or pollution prevention (only 10 percent of the TRI facilities submitted optional reports of waste minimization activities). For the ten facilities with the largest overall decreases, most of the reduction (over 66 percent) is attributable to improved emission estimates and a better understanding of reporting requirements by facilities that report to EPA.

The TRI report identifies the name and location of facilities with the largest releases to air, water, land and off-site transfers and the largest decreases and increases in releases from 1987 to 1988.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Texas and Louisiana accounted for 24 percent of all TRI releases and transfers.
  • Just 50 facilities accounted for 36 percent of all TRI releases and transfers.
  • Du Pont, Monsanto and American Cyanamid together released 710 million pounds of TRI chemicals, 15 percent of total releases and transfers.
  • The chemical industry reported 2.9 billion pounds of TRI releases, almost half the total of releases and transfers.
  • Just 25 chemicals made up 85 percent of all releases and transfers; three of these, ammonium sulfate, hydrochloric acid and methanol, accounted for about 30 percent of total TRI releases and transfers.
  • One of these top 25 chemicals, dichloromethane, is a carcinogen.
  • Seven of the top 25 chemicals are considered highly toxic: ammonia; carbon disulfide; chlorine; zinc; and copper, manganese and zinc compounds.
  • Carcinogens comprise only eight percent of the TRI releases and transfers.

The knowledge of toxic pollution that TRI provides helps protect the environment in many ways. EPA uses TRI data to strengthen the regulation of toxic releases, to develop pollution prevention programs and to target inspection and compliance activities. While the TRI itself does not calculate risks to human health or the environment, its data help to identify places of concern. In addition, the existence and accessibility of the TRI data have resulted in actions by individuals, communities, environmental groups, state legislatures, businesses and many others to reduce pollution.

"The Toxics Release Inventory is fundamentally changing the way this country approaches the challenge of reducing the release of toxic emissions into the environment. I doubt if even TRI's most enthusiastic sponsors realized how powerful a tool for environmental improvement it would become. It is empowering citizen groups and community officials. It is opening the eyes of corporate executives, some of whom are only now finding out how many valuable chemicals they are wasting. It is enabling regulators, like EPA, to be much more effective in targeting the worst problems," said Reilly.

The Agency estimates that up to one-third of the facilities that should be reporting to TRI are not doing so. To improve reporting compliance, EPA has so far filed over 200 civil complaints against non-reporters, proposed penalties in excess of $7 million and issued 2,061 notices of non-compliance. To ensure proper reporting, EPA has conducted over 1,330 on-site inspections of TRI facilities.

"Toxics in the Community" details releases by chemical, industrial class, state, county and type of environmental release (air, water, land). It also addresses the health effects and risks posed by TRI chemicals, off-site transfers, waste minimization and uses of TRI.

Under section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), certain manufacturing facilities are required to report their annual emissions of listed chemicals to air, water and land. Section 313 contains a list of 332 toxic chemicals and chemical categories which may pose potentially significant hazards to human health and the environment. Facilities submit reports to EPA and their states. EPA received over 70,000 reports from 19,762 facilities for 1988 releases. The Agency released the first TRI figures, covering 1987 releases, in 1989.

TRI data are publicly available on microfiche at over 4,000 libraries nationwide. An on-line database of releases and transfers is also accessible through the National Library of Medicine's "Toxnet" system. For more information on libraries with TRI data and toxic releases in specific areas, contact the state and/or regional EPA TRI contacts located in appendix E of the report or the EPCRA hotline at 1-800-535-0202.