EPA unveils mixed news on U.S. toxic emissions

The U.S. EPA issued its annual Toxics Release Inventory this week, and it’s a pessimist’s dream. U.S. waterways absorbed 241 million pounds of chemicals in 2004, up 10 percent from the year before. Dioxin, mercury, and PCB releases were down, but (a fact the press failed to note) the 58 percent dioxin decline in 2004 was relative to a huge spike in 2003; compared to 2002, the decline was desultory. The EPA’s talking point: Overall chemical pollution — mainly from mining, electric, and haz-waste companies — fell more than 4 percent from 2003 to 2004. So, only 4.2 billion pounds of nasty spewed into the environment in 2004. Praise be. Presumably satisfied with a job well done, the Bush administration is pushing to have the TRI review conducted every other year instead of annually, and is trying to excuse companies from reporting “small” spills and releases of fewer than 5,000 pounds of a specific chemical.