Since 1987, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has collected information annually on the release of selected chemicals by U.S. manufacturing facilities, and has made this information public through the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI was established pursuant to Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986.
TRI reporting requirements cover 643 chemicals, 28 of which are categories of chemical compounds. The list characterizes materials as ranging from mildly toxic to severely toxic, with effects ranging from acute to chronic. The TRI data are presented primarily through a publicly accessible database, and through EPA publications. Due to the complexity of compiling these figures, the report data reflect chemical releases from the year two years prior to the date of publication (for example, the 2004 TRI report covers releases during 2002).
Facilities with more than 10 full-time employees that manufacture or process more than 25,000 pounds or use more than 10,000 pounds of any reportable chemical must report to TRI releases to the EPA. Facilities must report annually the quantities of these chemicals released into the air, water and soil. EPA then publishes these figures in the TRI, along with information on the maximum amount of the chemicals stored at reporting facilities during the year. The names and locations of off-site facilities to which toxic wastes were shipped also are reported, as are the treatment or disposal methods used for wastes, and estimates of their efficiency.
Styrene emissions are among those that must be reported to the EPA under TRI. Despite the fact that the EPA has not classified styrene as a carcinogen (nor has any other Federal agency), styrene currently is identified in the TRI as a "carcinogen," based on International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) guidance (see International Regulation of Styrene). SIRC objects to the use of IARC classifications in defining carcinogens. The TRI reports for both 2002 and 2003 showed significant reductions in styrene emissions. These improvements reflect new control technology put in place for various styrene-using industry segments.
It is important to note that emissions of styrene do not translate into or signify public health threats. Styrene dissipates very rapidly when released into the air or water. Moreover, EPA states in the TRI introduction, "TRI reports reflect releases of chemicals, not exposures of the public to those chemicals. Release estimates alone are not sufficient to determine exposure or to calculate potential adverse effects on human health and the environment." Such is the case with styrene.
More information can be found on the TRI website. Another source of TRI information is the Environmental Defense Scorecard. On SIRC's website, Styrene and Human Health has more information concerning styrene and public health.
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