Most days you probably don’t think about it. I know I don’t think about it. But after Hurricane Harvey hit land in Texas, which lead to power outages and then several explosions at a chemical plant outside Houston, you may be asking yourself: What chemicals are in my backyard?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) have tools to answer your questions. Both the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and TOXMAP can help answer your questions. NLM’s TOXNET suite of databases includes TRI and TOXMAP. All the data behind these two tools comes from the EPA.
What is the Toxics Release Inventory?
TRI tracks the management of certain toxic chemicals that may pose a threat to human health and the environment. U.S. facilities in different industry sectors must report annually how much of each chemical is released to the environment and/or managed through recycling, energy recovery and treatment (A “release” of a chemical means that it is emitted to the air or water, or placed in some type of land disposal). The information submitted by facilities is compiled and helps support informed decision-making by companies, government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the public.
There are currently over 650 chemicals covered by the TRI Program.
Why was the TRI Program created?
The TRI Program was created as part of a response to several events that raised public concern about local preparedness for chemical emergencies and the availability of information on hazardous substances.
On December 4, 1984, a cloud of extremely toxic methyl isocyanate gas escaped from a Union Carbide Chemical plant in Bhopal, India. Thousands of people died that night in what is widely considered to be the worst industrial disaster in history. Thousands more died later as a result of their exposure, and survivors continue to suffer with permanent disabilities. In 1985, a serious chemical release occurred at a similar plant in West Virginia.
In 1986, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) to support and promote emergency planning and to provide the public with information about releases of toxic chemicals in their community. Section 313 of EPCRA established the Toxics Release Inventory.
What types of industries are included in TRI?
Facilities that report to TRI are typically larger facilities involved in manufacturing, metal mining, electric power generation, chemical manufacturing and hazardous waste treatment. Not all industry sectors are covered by the TRI Program, and not all facilities in covered sectors are required to report to TRI. See the Basics of TRI Reporting for more information.
What’s in your neighborhood? TOXMAP is the place to look.
When you arrive at TOXMAP, choose Zoom to Location and then enter your zip code or an address. A navigation tool will appear on the left and blue dots will show TRI sites in the zip code area on the map.
Why is 2015 the most recent data?
TRI is always behind 1-2 years. Businesses have approximately a year to report for the previous year and then the TRI data is cleaned up and then finally released to the public. TOXMAP currently shows 2015 data, but EPA has preliminary data for 2016:
Learn more about TRI and TOXMAP