For the first time in 10 years, overall releases of toxic air emissions increased from one year to the next, according to EPA's Community Right-to-Know information made public May 13.
In 1997, overall releases increased 2.2 percent from 1996. The increase mostly is attributed to a shift by a number of facilities that didn't recycle metal waste, but used other disposal methods, such as landfills, because of cost fluctuations in the recycling market.
Total releases have decreased by almost 42 percent since 1988, when reporting began. However, the Working Group on Community Right-to-Know contends more must be done by U.S. companies to improve efficiency, reduce worker exposure and protect the environment through source reduction of toxic waste.
The group, which coordinates public-interest organizations concerned with chemical hazards and toxic pollution, also pointed to more than 23.8 billion pounds of toxic chemicals in waste in 1997, with more than 2.5 billion pounds put into the environment.
Release data from seven new industrial sectors will be announced for the first time next year. As a result, the number of facilities reporting under the Toxic Release Inventory program will increase by about 30 percent, from 21,000 to 28,000.