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Right-To-Know: A Long Way to Go
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1998 TRI Releases TRIPLE! Children at Risk to Neurotoxins

Preliminary 1998 TRI Maps and California Top Ten TRI Rankings.

May 11, 2000

Two developments occurred today. This is my initial reaction. I will have more to say later. I also plan to add maps to help better communicate the new TRI releases (especially those from the newly added facilities). The EPA released an abbreviated version of their 1998 Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). Also, the Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) released their report, In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development.

The 1998 TRI data includes new facilities from the metal mining, coal mining, electric utilities, chemical wholesalers, petroleum bulk terminals, and hazardous waste treatment, storage, & disposal facilities / solvent recovery (these last two categories are currently treated as one by EPA) sectors. Researchers have concluded that the TRI data accounts for somewhere between 1% and 10% of the toxic chemicals that are actually released. 1997 TRI onsite and offsite releases totalled 2,577,553,084 (2.5 billion+) pounds. 1998 TRI onsite and offsite releases totalled 7,307,327,181 (7.3 billion+) pounds. We now have a better idea of what TRI was missing in the past.

Just adding these new facilities nearly tripled the total of onsite and offsite releases. In other words, we know now for certain that TRI, at most, was only accounting for approximately 33% (1/3) of the toxic chemicals actually in our environment. But there is still ample evidence indicating that TRI still vastly underestimates the actual amounts. The list of TRI chemicals includes 600+ chemicals. The TRI is self-reported and there are rules that allow many facilities to avoid reporting. The list of High Production Volume (HPV) chemicals includes over 2,000 chemicals. There are over 80,000 chemical in production. TRI accounts for little of this.

But this is not the entire story. Not knowing what is in the environment in the first place is one issue. Not knowing, at least, about the effects of those that we do know are present is another. The PSR says, "Nearly 75% of the top high production and volume chemicals have undergone little or no toxicity testing. However, the EPA estimates that up to 28% of all chemicals in the current inventory of about 80,000 have neurotoxic potential. In addition: complete tests for developmental neurotoxicity have been submitted to EPA for only 12 chemicals, nine pesticides and three solvents - as of December 1998". 12 out of 20,000+ might as well be zero.

It is well past the time to turn the tables and take precautionary steps where they are needed. We have done an excellent job of taking the necessary precautionary steps to protect production and profits oblivious to the effects. Now it is time to be excellent at something new -- taking the necessary precautionary steps to protect the health of all living things. Much that has been written about the Precautionary Principle is applicable here.

This does not mean that production must come to a halt and profits plummet. On the contrary, there are many new and innovative ways to cleanup production and create healthful environments. I have begun to collect some of these new ideas and practices at TerraKnowledge.com.

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In Harm's Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development by the Physicians for Social Responsibility can be downloaded at http://www.igc.org/psr/ihw.htm. Also see Preventing Harm A Resource and Action Center on Children and the Environment

The 1998 TRI data can be found at http://www.epa.gov/tri/tri98/index.htm

Working Group on Community Right-to-Know 1998 TRI press release

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