Toxic pollution: A mixed bag o' waste in EPA's newest TRI data

provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

n June 18, the EPA announced its national data on toxic chemical pollution, including pollution reports from major companies in each state. The report marks the 10th anniversary of the successful "Toxic Release Inventory" right-to-know program, an invaluable tool for citizens and groups who wish to monitor the toxic pollution of particular companies.

The EPA's data reveals a mixed bag: while U.S. companies in 1996 released less waste, the amount of toxics in the waste increased. Total releases fell 4 percent, from 2.5 billion pounds in 1995 to 2.4 billion pounds in 1996. These numbers continue the trend of declining releases, which have dropped 46 percent since 1988 when reporting began. But the amount of toxic substances generated during production increased 1.3 percent to 23.4 billion pounds. These figures reveal that the enormous potential benefits of reducing toxic chemical use in the production process improving industrial efficiency, reducing worker exposure, and protecting the environment yet remain untapped. Too many companies continue to rely on costly toxic waste management, and too few reduce waste at the source.

The TRI also indicated an uneven trend of releases into the environment. Toxic air emissions declined by about 7 percent from 1995 to 1996, but the amount of chemicals disposed on land and into surface water each increased by about 9 percent.

Here is the list of the "Dirty Dozen," the twelve states with the greatest amount of toxics released into the environment, measured in pounds according to their 1996 data:

1) Texas - 267,440,786

2) Louisiana - 184,537,787

3) Ohio - 145,139,835

4) Pennsylvania - 122,423,185

5) Indiana - 108,988,034

6) Illinois - 107,663,656

7) Tennessee - 103,874,399

8) Alabama - 102,922,534

9) Michigan - 90,158,602

10) North Carolina - 85,174,574

11) Utah - 82,889,834

12) Florida - 80,957,682

  For more information on the Toxic Release Inventory and state by state pollution data, check out the EPA web site at: