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What Can TRI Tell Me About Risk?
The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) can provide you with information about releases of toxic chemicals from industrial facilities throughout the United States. Although TRI can't tell you whether or to what extent you've been exposed to these chemicals, it can be used as a starting point in evaluating potential risks to human health and the environment.
- Is my health at risk because of toxic chemicals in my community?
- How can I find out more about the potential chemical risks in my community?
- How is EPA ensuring that facilities don't pose significant risks to my community?
- What can I do if I think there's a problem at a facility?
- How does my community compare to others in the United States?
- How can I find more information?
- Where can I get help if I'd like to talk to a real person?
Is my health at risk because of toxic chemicals in my community?
Your individual risk is determined by many factors, such as:
- The toxicity of the chemical(s) released
- The quantity of the chemical(s) released
- The route of exposure (air, water, land)
- How often you were exposed
- The fate of the chemical in the environment
TRI contains some of this information - on what chemicals are released from industrial facilities, the total amount of each chemical released, and the amounts released to air, water and land.
Overview of Factors that Influence Risk
If you are interested in estimating immediate or long-term risks in your community, you will need to combine TRI with other information, such as the toxicity of the chemical and the chemical's fate and transport. Please see the "How can I find more information?" section at the bottom of this page to learn about some resources that can help you do this. It is important to note that EPA and other government agencies implement environmental regulations to reduce potential risks.
In some circumstances, chemicals can pose risks to human health and the environment. It is useful to think about whether a particular risk is "significant", or worthy of concern relative to other risks. In general, industrial facilities that are operating in compliance with environmental regulations have controls in place that reduce releases of toxic chemicals and the potential risks they might pose to human health and the environment.
To read more about risk and its assessment and management, go to EPA's risk assessment portal.
How can I find out more about the potential chemical risks in my community?
Determining whether the specific chemicals present in your community may pose a risk to you or others is very complex. Information about specific toxic chemicals and the effects of exposure on human health can be found in resources such as the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)'s Toxic Substances Portal. You can find more resources on TRI's Other Toxic Chemical Resources webpage.
How is EPA ensuring that facilities don't pose significant risks to my community?
EPA, together with state and tribal governments, implements a number of laws that control emissions of toxic chemicals to the air, land and water. Regulations written under these laws often require facilities to use approved control technologies and methods to reduce or eliminate releases and may tell facilities how to store or dispose of chemicals in wastes.
To help further reduce potential risks, EPA encourages facilities to prevent or reduce pollution at the source and to promote recycling whenever possible. TRI data can give you insights into the waste management activities undertaken by facilities.
What can I do if I think there's a problem at a facility?
- Report this information to EPA so it can be investigated and action can be taken as appropriate. EPA, states and tribes regularly monitor each facility's compliance with all environmental regulations.
- Examine the compliance records for nearby facilities by going to the EPA's Enforcement and Compliance History Online website.
- Contact your state office of environmental protection for additional information on facility performance, state environmental laws, and environmental conditions.
- Contact EPA's regional offices, each of which is responsible for overseeing federal environmental regulations in several states and territories.
- Contact the Office of Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) for worker safety concerns.
- Directly contact company representatives to ask questions about the data they've provided to EPA. Public contact information for each TRI reporting facility can be found in Section 4.4 of each Form R submitted by a facility. Form Rs can be found by searching for a particular facility in Envirofacts.
How does my community compare to others in the United States?
Several tools are available to help compare specific metrics across communities, including:
- Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) tool to compare location-specific risks using relative risk estimates.
- The EJ View mapping tool to compare multiple factors that may affect public and environmental health within a community or region.
- The National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) to compare air pollution risks from many sources across the US.
- The TRI data tools and annual TRI National Analysis reports to compare TRI information across geographic areas, major industrial sectors, and over a period of years.
How can I find more information?
- My Right-to-Know: Learn what toxic chemicals are released in your community.
- TRI data search tools: Find TRI data and examine TRI releases more closely.
- Factors to Consider When Using TRI Data (PDF): Learn more about using and interpreting TRI data.
- Other resources about toxic chemicals: Links to information compiled by EPA and other federal agencies.
Where can I get help if I'd like to talk to a real person?
If there is an emergency, you can report an oil spill or other environmental emergency to the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802. Your Local Emergency Planning Commission has information on facilities and emergency response plans for your area. Staff at your local fire department will know whom to contact.
If you have TRI-related questions:
- Staff at the TRI Information Center can help you gain access to and understand the TRI data. Call 1-800-424-9346 and select option 3 from the menu.
- For help in understanding TRI data about a particular geographic area or facility, you may contact the TRI regional coordinator for your location.
- If you'd prefer to email your questions, contact the TRI Help Desk (firstname.lastname@example.org). TRI Program staff will review and respond to questions and comments as quickly possible.