Toxic Release Inventory by Congressional District
There are 435 U.S. House of Representatives up for election this fall. A key measure to consider is the toxic chemical legacy in each congressional district and these elected leaders’ voting records. Recent U.S. EPA data shows that 82% of toxic chemicals released into the environment occurred in congressional districts lead by Republicans.
According to the U.S. EPA Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), 3.1 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released in the U.S. in 2020. The mandatory TRI program tracks the management of regulated toxic chemicals in the U.S. that threaten human health and the environment.
These toxic chemicals are often used in the composition and the making of our clothes, children's toys, pots, pans, automobiles, and plastics.
The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, which governs the TRI, states a toxic chemical release is when a toxic chemical is emitted into the air, waterways, or disposed of on land.
The TRI program in 2020 covered 800 chemicals including chemicals with adverse health effects. Any facility processing, manufacturing, or utilizing these chemicals in quantities that exceed the set levels must submit an annual report to the TRI. They also must submit yearly reporting forms for each chemical assessed.
Our dashboard reviews three categories of chemicals covered by the TRI:
Chemicals covered under the Toxic Release Inventory
Persistent bioaccumulative toxic (PBT) chemicals, such as mercury that can cause birth defects.
Yet the TRI does not cover all toxic chemicals produced or used in the U.S.
Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are one class of chemicals listed in the TRI. PFAS – also called Forever Chemicals – have been used in consumer and industrial products since the 1940s. When humans are exposed to these chemicals, exposure can lead to harmful health impacts as increased cholesterol, changes in liver enzymes, and increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer.
People ingest these Forever Chemicals by drinking contaminated water and eating food grown or raised near where the chemicals were produced or via food packaging containing PFAS.
People can also be exposed to PFAS by wearing water-repellent clothing and using certain personal care products and cosmetics.
Research has shown that exposure to PFAS in consumer products is usually lower than exposure to PFAS-contaminated drinking water. However, according to the EPA, scientists continue to study how harmful these Forever Chemicals are to people and the environment. Engineers are only now learning how to remove PFAS from drinking water and dispose of these chemicals properly as exposure to these chemicals continues through bioaccumulation and ongoing industrial activities.
Elections this Fall
This fall, on the ballot are 34 Senate seats, 435 House seats, and 36 gubernatorial seats . Winning these seats will impact how the U.S. chooses to govern its chemical footprint determining it toxic chemical legacy.
Together, businesses, communities, and policymakers can eliminate these toxic chemicals by investing in innovative solutions that power our transition to a low-carbon, sustainable, and equitable future.
We encourage you to explore our dashboard to determine your business and community's exposure assessed by the Congressional district.
All data is sourced from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World. Data was accessed in July 2022. Data from the US EPA Toxic Release Inventory is from 2022. Congressional district map is the 117th Congressional district map from Living Atlas. Data used is only aggregated publicly available information.
The toxic release values are calculated by grouping release coordinates into districts in ArcGIS.