Toxic chemicals release down in 2008

The Bad news: Americans seem to be more exposed to chemicals from 2003 to 2004, according to a biomonitoring survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Good news: Toxic chemicals released into the environment in 2008 was 6% less compared to 2007, according to a recent analysis from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) report, which includes data on 650 chemicals from more than 21,000 facilities, total toxic chemicals releases to air last year decreased 14%, although releases to surface water increased 3% partially attributed to a coal ash spill at a Tennessee Valley Authority facility in Kingston, Tenn.

Releases to land remain virtually unchanged from 2007, showing a 0.1% increase, the EPA said.

The report also shows decreases in the releases of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals including lead, dioxin, and mercury. Mercury release/disposal was down 11%, dioxin down 77%, while lead releases decreased by 2%.

Releases of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) increased 121% which represent the removal of PCBs from service for disposal at regulated hazardous waste facilities. PCBs are no longer used in U.S. manufacturing.

The analysis also shows a 5% decline in the number of facilities reporting to TRI from the previous year presumably because more facilities have closed, discontinued or idled. EPA said it will investigate why some facilities reported in 2007 but not 2008.

Information reported by multiple industry sectors including manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste facilities is submitted annually to EPA and states. Facilities report by July 1 of each year.

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