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Industrial Facilities’ Toxic Chemical Releases Dropped 8% in 2015

emissionsAir emissions of toxic chemicals from industrial facilities saw an 8 percent decrease from 2014 to 2015, continuing their 10-year decline, according to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) National Analysis.

TRI data is submitted annually from industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities and commercial hazardous waste.

The annual report, released today, shows releases of toxic chemicals into the air fell 56 percent between 2005 and 2015 at industrial facilities submitting data to the TRI program.

In 2015, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, toluene and mercury were among chemicals with significantly lower air releases at TRI-covered facilities. Medical professionals have associated these toxic air pollutants with health effects that include damage to developing nervous systems and respiratory irritation.

Combined hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid air releases fell more than 566 million pounds, mercury more than 76,000 pounds, and toluene more than 32 million pounds at TRI-covered facilities. Coal- and oil-fired electric utilities accounted for more than 90 percent of nationwide reductions in air releases of hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid and mercury from 2005 to 2015 in facilities reporting to the program.

In 2015, of the nearly 26 billion pounds of total chemical waste managed at TRI-covered industrial facilities (excluding metal mines), about 92 percent was not released into the environment due to the use of preferred waste management practices such as recycling, energy recovery and treatment, the agency says.

This calculation does not include the metal mining sector, which the EPA says “presents only limited opportunities for pollution prevention.” The TRI Pollution Prevention (P2) Search Tool has more information about how individual facilities and parent companies are managing waste and reducing pollution at the source.

Nearly 22,000 facilities submitted TRI data for calendar year 2015.

This year’s report also includes a section highlighting the new Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, which updated the Toxic Substances Control Act. This section focuses on the overlap between TRI chemicals and chemicals designated as work plan chemicals by the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

Earlier this week the EPA proposed adding natural gas processing facilities to the list of industrial sectors required to file TRI reports. The EPA estimates that at least 282 natural gas processing facilities in the US would meet the TRI thresholds and thus be required to report TRI data under the rule.

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