Releases of toxins increases, EPA reports

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released its annual report on the release of toxins into our air and water, and onto our land.

The inventory, which is for 2011, shows that releases increased for the second year in a row.

However, toxic air releases declined eight percent from 2010.

The data get rather techical rather quickly, but it's a good reminder that any resident can go to an EPA site that's fairly easy to navigate to find out what toxins are being released in his or her community. At the EPA's TRI Explorer page, you can plug in your state, your county or your zip code and see what chemicals and how much of them are being released, plus who's doing it.

“The Toxics Release Inventory provides widespread access to valuable environmental information. It plays a critical role in EPA’s efforts to hold polluters accountable and identify and acknowledge those who take steps to prevent pollution,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson in a press release.

There has been a steady decline of toxic chemical releases into the air since 1998, Jackson said.

Significant among this year's declines were hazardous air pollutants, including hydrochloric acid and mercury. and the agency credited installation of control technologies at coal fired power plants and a shift to other fuel sources.

The increase of toxic releases overall -- eight percent over 2010 levels -- was largely due to mining, the agency said.

"The difference is mainly due to increases in land disposal at metal mines, which typically involve large facilities handling large volumes of material. In this sector, even a small change in the chemical composition of the ore being mined - which EPA understands is one of the asserted reasons for the increase in total reported releases - can lead to big changes in the amount of toxic chemicals reported nationally," the agency said.

Sorting the results by state, New Jersey saw a 14 percent decrease in toxic releases. Pennsylvania saw a five percent decrease.