Down, but Not Out
Here’s a spot of good news: Releases of toxic chemicals by U.S. industries declined 15 percent between 2000 and 2001 (the most recent year for which data are available) and dropped by more than 50 percent since 1988. That’s the latest word from the U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory. Of course, that means there are still 6.2 billion pounds of toxic chemicals being pumped into the air, water, and land, with dioxin emissions on the rise and lead emissions remaining a significant problem, so there’s plenty of work left to do. “The good news is that overall pollution has declined,” said Jeremiah Baumann of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. “But the bad news is that for some of the most toxic chemicals, we’re seeing more, not less, pollution.” Mining for metals accounts for more than half of the toxic releases in the nation, with Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Alaska ranking high for mining pollution. Coal-burning power plants are also major dischargers, particularly in Ohio and Indiana.