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TRI National Analysis

Introduction to the 2015 TRI National Analysis

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Industries and businesses in the United States use chemicals to make the products we depend on, such as pharmaceuticals, computers, paints, clothing, and automobiles. While the majority of toxic chemicals are managed by industrial facilities to minimize releases of chemicals into the environment, releases do still occur as part of their business operations. It is your right to know what toxic chemicals are being used in your community, how they are managed, whether they are being released into the environment, the quantities of these releases, and whether such quantities are increasing or decreasing over time.

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) is a publically available database maintained by EPA's TRI Program that tracks the management of certain toxic chemicals that may pose a threat to human health and the environment. This information is submitted by U.S. facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste management. Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), facilities must report their toxic chemical releases for the prior calendar year to EPA by July 1 of each year. The Pollution Prevention Act (PPA) also requires facilities to submit information on pollution prevention and other waste management activities of TRI chemicals. Nearly 22,000 facilities submitted TRI data for calendar year 2015.

This year’s Toxics Release Inventory shows significant reductions in releases of toxic chemicals into the air from 2005 to 2015. During this timeframe, air releases of toxic chemicals from U.S. industrial facilities covered by the TRI Program decreased by 56% (851 million pounds). Additionally, in 2015, of the nearly 26 billion pounds of total chemical waste managed at TRI-covered industrial facilities (excluding metal mines), approximately 92% was not released into the environment due to the use of preferred waste management practices such as recycling, energy recovery, and treatment.

What is the TRI National Analysis?

Watch this video for an overview of the TRI National Analysis.

Quick Facts for 2015

Measure Value
Number of TRI Facilities 21,849
Production-Related Waste Managed 27.24 billion lb
   Recycled    11.91 billion lb
   Energy Recovery    3.10 billion lb
   Treated    8.83 billion lb
   Disposed of or Otherwise Released    3.41 billion lb
Total Disposal or Other Releases 3.36 billion lb
   On-site    2.89 billion lb
      Air       0.69 billion lb
      Water       0.19 billion lb
      Land       2.01 billion lb
   Off-site    0.46 billion lb

Note: Numbers do not sum exactly due to rounding.

Users of TRI data should be aware that the quantity of releases is not an indicator of potential health risks posed by the chemicals. Although TRI data generally cannot indicate the extent to which individuals may have been exposed to toxic chemicals, TRI data can be used as a starting point to evaluate exposure and whether TRI chemicals pose risks to human health and the environment. For more information on the potential hazard and risk posed by disposal or other releases of TRI chemicals, see the Hazard and Risk of TRI Chemicals section.

Note that two metrics shown in the Quick Facts box related to disposal or other releases are similar (3.41 and 3.36 billion pounds), but total disposal or other releases is slightly lower. The reason total disposal or other releases is lower is that it removes "double counting" that occurs when a facility that reports to EPA's TRI Program transfers waste to another TRI-reporting facility. For example, when TRI Facility A transfers a chemical off-site for disposal to Facility B, Facility A reports the chemical as transferred off-site for disposal while Facility B reports the same chemical as disposed of on-site. In processing the data, the TRI Program recognizes that this is the same quantity of the chemical, and includes it only once in the total disposal or other releases value. The production-related waste value in TRI, however, considers all of the instances where the waste is managed (first as a quantity sent off-site for disposal and next as a quantity disposed of on-site), and reflects both the transfer off-site and the on-site disposal.

This page was published in January 2017 and uses the 2015 TRI National Analysis dataset made public in TRI Explorer in October 2016.

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