TRI and Dioxin
Community-Right-to-Know: The Toxics Release Inventory
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.