TRI Data Considerations
As with any dataset, there are several factors to consider when reviewing results or using the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data. Key factors associated with data presented in the TRI National Analysis are summarized below; for more information see Factors to Consider When Using Toxics Release Inventory Data.
- Covered sectors and chemicals. TRI includes information reported by many industry sectors on the quantities of many chemicals that are released or otherwise managed as waste, but it does not contain such information on all chemicals manufactured, processed or otherwise used by facilities or from facilities in all industry sectors within the United States. A list of the sectors covered by the TRI Program is available on the TRI webpage, as well as a current list of the chemicals reportable to the TRI Program.
- TRI trends. The list of TRI chemicals has changed over the years; as a result, trend graphs in the TRI National Analysis include only those chemicals that were reportable for the entire time period presented so that the year-to-year data are comparable. Results which focus only on the year 2017 include all chemicals reportable for 2017. Thus, the results for 2017 analyses may differ slightly from results presented in trend analyses, which include 2017 and previous years.
- Data quality. Facilities determine the quantities of chemicals they report to TRI using the best available data. Each year, EPA conducts an extensive data quality review that includes contacting facilities to review potential errors in reported information. This data quality review ensures the National Analysis is based on accurate and useful information.
- Risk. The quantity of TRI chemicals released is not an indicator of health risks posed by the chemicals. Although TRI data generally cannot indicate the extent to which individuals may have been exposed to chemicals, TRI data can be used as a starting point to evaluate the potential for exposure and whether TRI chemical releases might pose risks to human health and the environment. In particular, note that:
- The level of toxicity varies among the covered chemicals; data on amounts of the chemicals alone are inadequate to reach conclusions on health-related risks; and
- The presence of a chemical in the environment must be evaluated along with the potential and actual exposures and the route of exposures, the chemical's fate in the environment and other factors before any judgements can be made about potential risks associated with the chemical or a release.
For more information on the use of TRI data in exposure and risk analyses, see Factors to Consider When Using Toxics Release Inventory Data and the Hazard and Potential Risk of TRI Chemicals in the Releases section.
- Late submissions. TRI reporting forms submitted to EPA after the July 1 reporting deadline may not be processed in time to be included in the National Analysis. While revisions can be submitted after the July 1 reporting deadline, the data used to develop the National Analysis is frozen in mid-October. Therefore, revisions received after this freeze date will not be reflected in the National Analysis. Those late revisions will be incorporated into the TRI dataset during the Spring refresh of the data and will be reflected in next year's National Analysis when it refers to 2017 data.
- Double-counting. The National Analysis presents summaries of many quantitative data elements (see "Quick Facts" below) including releases to the environment, which occur on site and off site after wastes are transferred to other businesses for further waste management. When aggregating releases across facilities, such as national totals, EPA adjusts off-site releases to eliminate double counting of releases if the receiving facility also reports to TRI.
Quick Facts for 2017
|Number of TRI Facilities||21,456|
|Production-Related Waste Managed||30.57 billion lb|
|Recycled||14.69 billion lb|
|Energy Recovery||2.95 billion lb|
|Treated||8.98 billion lb|
|Disposed of or Otherwise Released||3.95 billion lb|
|Total Disposal or Other Releases||3.88 billion lb|
|On-site||3.50 billion lb|
|Air||0.60 billion lb|
|Water||0.19 billion lb|
|Land||2.71 billion lb|
|Off-site||0.38 billion lb|
Note that two metrics shown in the Quick Facts box related to disposal or other releases are similar (3.95 and 3.88 billion pounds), but total disposal or other releases is slightly lower. One of the reasons 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 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 off-site transfer and the on-site disposal.
This page was published in March 2019 and uses the 2017 TRI National Analysis dataset made public in TRI Explorer in October 2018.