TOXMAP beta now includes the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) 2015 data.
What is TRI?
TRI is a database from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that tracks the disposal and waste management of a legislated list of toxic chemicals. TRI is a mandatory federal reporting program.
In general, chemicals covered by the TRI Program are those that cause one or more of the following:
- Cancer or other chronic human health effects
- Significant adverse acute human health effects
- Significant adverse environmental effects
Why was TRI Created?
The TRI program is one section of a larger law (EPCRA) that was passed in response to two specific events that raised public concern about local preparedness for chemical emergencies and the availability of information about hazardous substances that might be found in our neighborhoods.
Where it all began: Love Canal
The first event was Love Canal; whose story began in the early 1900s. There was actually a man named Mr. Love, who had the idea to build a canal to harness inexpensive hydroelectric power from Niagara Falls for industrial development around the turn of the 20th century. He eventually abandoned his plan and sold the land to Hooker Chemical Company. After using the site to dump 21,000 tons of industrial waste over an 11-year period, the company sold the land to the Niagara Falls Board of Education. Eventually, the area near the covered landfill was developed, including construction of an elementary school, as well as many residential properties.
Beginning in the 1970s, local residents noticed foul odors and chemical residues and experienced increased rates of cancer and other health problems. In 1978 and 1980, President Carter declared two federal environmental emergencies for the site, and about 950 families were evacuated from their homes within a 10-square-block area surrounding the landfill.
The severity of contamination at the Love Canal site in New York led to the creation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or the Superfund Law) of 1980.
CERCLA created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries and provided Federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment. Among other things, CERCLA established a trust fund to provide for cleanup when no responsible party could be identified. This trust fund is commonly known as Superfund.
CERCLA also created the National Priorities List (NPL). The NPL is the list of national clean-up priorities throughout the United States and its territories. Love Canal was the first site to be placed on the NPL in 1983.
The second event of concern occurred in Bhopal, India. In December of 1984, a cloud of extremely toxic methyl isocyanate gas escaped from the Union Carbide Chemical plant located in Bhopal. Thousands of people died in what is widely considered to be the worst industrial disaster in history.
In 1986, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was passed in the United States in response to concerns about Bhopal and Love Canal.
Section 313 of EPCRA created the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and lists the types of facilities and industries that must complete an annual toxic chemical release form for approximately 690 chemicals.
TRI Data and TOXNET
TRI data is pulled in from the EPA and is included in the TOXNET suite of databases at the National Library of Medicine (TRI and TOXMAP). TOXNET has its own version of the TRI interface. Data is always at least one year behind in TRI because industries have one year past the year-end to submit their data. Then the data has to be formatted so it “works” in the database.
TRI data can be mapped onto NLM’s TOXMAP interface. TOXMAP, among other things, is a graphic representation of TRI data.
If you would like to know more about the history of Love Canal here is a 22 minute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrWtd1P-NoU
Read more about CERCLA: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/superfund-cercla-overview
Read more about EPCRA: https://www.epa.gov/epcra/what-epcra