Environmental Defense Still Shining Bright Light On Polluting Companies

November 17, 2003

(17 November 2003 — Washington, DC)  Five years after launching www.scorecard.org, the web site that translates environmental data into an easy-to-find and easy-to-understand format for the public, Environmental Defense today released its yearly analysis of U.S. pollution trends.  The organization found that reported releases of industrial pollutants that can cause cancer fell by 20% in 2001, while releases reported for pollutants linked to birth defects and other developmental problems fell 24%.  The analysis was based on EPA’s most recently available Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data from 2001.  A zip code search function at www.scorecard.org allows visitors to see an overall picture of the pollutants in their community.

“Scorecard is the spotlight that makes industrial polluters visible to the public,” said Dr. John Balbus, director of the environmental health program at Environmental Defense.  “While it’s encouraging that reported releases of toxic chemicals have declined since Scorecard launched, Environmental Defense wants to make sure that the light on polluters never goes out.  The more people know about the health risks they face the more pressure industry will feel to reduce harmful chemicals or replace them with safer ones.”  

After analyzing the 2001 EPA TRI data the organization found the following trends:

Cancer Causing Pollutants:

  • Reported releases of recognized carcinogens in industrial pollution fell 20% from 2000 to 2001.  Among counties, Harris County in Texas had the largest releases of recognized carcinogens to air. 
  • Among the forty states that had decreases in reported releases of recognized carcinogens between 2000 and 2001, Mississippi experienced the greatest reduction, with a 2.37 million lbs. decrease.  Among those states showing increases, South Carolina suffered the largest increase with 315,000 lbs.
  • In 2001, the chemicals and allied products industries were the biggest source of airborne carcinogens, releasing over 20 million pounds into the nation’s air.

Developmental Toxicants:

  • Reported releases of recognized developmental toxicants fell 24% from 2000 to 2001.  Mobile County, Alabama experienced the largest reported releases of recognized developmental toxicants.
  • Among the 42 states with decreases in recognized developmental toxicants, Tennessee showed the greatest reduction with 12.7 million pounds.  Virginia had the largest increase in recognized developmental toxicants with 429,000 pounds.
  • The chemical and allied products industries were also the largest source of airborne developmental toxicants, releasing over 22 million pounds.

All Toxic Pollutants:

  • Mining and electrical power generation were the top sources of reported toxic chemical releases in the U.S., with Kennecott Utah Copper Mine once again taking the title of number one polluter in the U.S.  In 2001, the mine released 695 million pounds of toxic chemicals, more than total statewide releases for 30 states.

Lowered Threshold for Lead:

  • In 2001, the TRI reporting threshold for lead and lead compounds was lowered, increasing the number of facilities reporting lead emissions and illustrating that lead is dispersed more broadly than previously documented.  For instance, it was previously known that cars are responsible for most lead use and pollution, but the new threshold nearly doubles the number of auto production-related facilities reporting lead or lead compound emissions to the air. 

“Environmental Defense is proud to have created a service that continues to educate millions of people about environmental hazards in their community, but there is still much work to be done,” said Dr. Balbus.  “With the health impact of thousands of chemicals in use today still poorly understood or not available to the public, programs that generate toxicity information like the High Production Volume chemical initiative are needed to be sure we’re adequately protecting the public’s health.”