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EPA reports decline in U.S. releases of toxic chemicals

by Glenn Hess, special to C&EN
January 23, 2017 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 95, Issue 4

The amount of toxic chemicals released into the air by industrial facilities across the U.S. declined by 56%, or 386 million kg, from 2005 to 2015, according to data in EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). That amount includes an 8%, or a 28.6 million kg, decrease in chemicals released between 2014 and 2015, says an analysis released by the Obama Administration on Jan. 12. Hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, toluene, and mercury were among the chemicals that experienced significantly lower releases from reporting facilities. EPA attributes these reductions to power plants shifting from coal to other fuel sources and the installation of pollution control technologies. The data also indicate that more than 12.2 billion kg of chemical waste was managed by industrial facilities in 2015, but only about 12%, or 1.5 billion kg, was released into the environment as a result of practices such as recycling, energy recovery, and treatment. Approximately 21,800 facilities nationwide submitted TRI data to EPA for 2015. “The TRI report provides citizens access to information about what toxic chemicals are being released in their neighborhoods and what companies are doing to prevent pollution,” said Jim Jones, who was an EPA assistant administrator in the Obama Administration.


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