About TRI and Dioxin

Community-Right-to-Know: The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI)

  • The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) was created in 1986 under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).
  • Under the TRI, facilities that manufacture, process, or otherwise use certain toxic materials are required to report amounts of emissions of these materials to air, water and land if they exceed established activity thresholds. The TRI also requires facilities to report their pollution-prevention and recycling data. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compiles TRI data each year, publishes an annual report and makes the data available to the public via the Internet.
  • Currently, the TRI tracks information on about 650 individually listed chemicals and chemical categories released annually by U.S. facilities.
  • Individual chemicals may be added or removed from the TRI list, based on EPA's judgment of each chemical's hazard status.
  • Over the past two decades, the chlorine industry has dramatically reduced its emissions to the environment, while at the same time substantially increasing the amounts of chlorine that it produces. Between 1988 and 1998, government-mandated TRI reports reveal that emissions of chlorine-related compounds fell by more than 65%, while chlorine production grew by 20%.

Dioxin Reporting Under the TRI

  • In October 1999, the EPA added PCDD/Fs to the TRI inventory to begin in the reporting year 2000.
  • As a result, chemical manufacturers and other facilities must report their releases of dioxin to the environment if it is created, processed or otherwise used in amounts of 0.1 gram (0.0035 ounce) per year or more.
  • Under the TRI rules, facilities must report annual releases of PCDD/Fs to the environment if it is created, processed or otherwise used in amounts of 0.1 gram (0.0035 ounce) per year or more. The smallest quantity to be reported is 0.0001 gram, or 100 micrograms. If the amount is 0.00005 gram or less, it can be listed as a "zero" emission.
  • A facility must account for PCDD/Fs present as a contaminant in a chemical that is processed or otherwise used, but only if the dioxin was created during the manufacturing of that chemical and the 0.1 gram threshold is met.
  • The extremely low reporting threshold - 0.1 gram for manufacturing, processing, or otherwise using PCDD/Fs over the course of the year - and other reporting requirements mean that the 2000 TRI may indicate widespread, although miniscule, releases of PCDD/Fs by chemical plants and other facilities around the country.
  • The low reporting threshold for PCDD/Fs also may identify new sources, in addition to PCDD/Fs not previously reported by industry.

What the TRI Data Will Not Reflect 

  • The TRI will provide only a snapshot in time of a facility's emissions. Therefore, the TRI will not reflect the substantial progress that has been made over the past 30 years to manage and reduce PCDD/Fs emissions through regulations and voluntary industry actions, such as improved combustion technology and changes in manufacturing processes.
  • The TRI will not include the historically largest sources of PCDD/Fs in the environment (municipal and medical waste incinerators) or the sources that EPA considers to be the biggest current sources of PCDD/Fs in the environment, e.g., open burning of household waste, landfill fires and agricultural burning.  The TRI also will not include a major natural source of PCDD/Fs in the environment - forest fires.
  • The TRI will not provide the public with meaningful information about PCDD/Fs. 

      - Under TRI rules, facilities must report the total mass of all PCDD/Fs in their processes. Because this method does not accurately convey toxicity, it can convey an inaccurate impression of how dangerous a given material might be.

      - Of the 17 different types of PCDD/Fs that are included in the TRI, most are not as toxic as TCDD, the most toxic form of PCDD/Fs. However, under the TRI rules, PCDD/Fs that is 10,000 times less toxic than TCDD will be reported in amounts equivalent to TCDD.

      - In addition, under the TRI, facilities must not only report their dioxin releases, they must also report amounts of PCDD/Fs that are generated, destroyed and disposed of - and therefore, not emitted to the open environment.

  • The TRI will not reflect a person's risk from or exposure to toxic substances.

      - Emissions and releases of toxic substances do not equate directly to the amounts to which people are exposed. Just because a facility releases a certain quantity of a substance - in this case, PCDD/Fs - it does not mean that individuals are exposed to that amount.


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