TRI National Analysis

Releases of Chemicals in the 2015 TRI National Analysis

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Disposal or other releases of Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) chemicals into the environment occur in several ways. Chemicals may be disposed of on a facility’s property by being released to the air, water or land. Facilities may also ship (transfer) wastes that contain TRI chemicals to an off-site location for treatment or disposal. Note that most disposal or other release practices are subject to a variety of regulatory requirements designed to limit harm to human health and the environment. To learn more about what EPA is doing to help limit the release of toxic chemicals to the environment, see EPA's laws and regulations webpage.

Evaluating releases of TRI chemicals can help identify potential concerns and gain a better understanding of potential risks that may be posed by the releases. This evaluation can also help identify priorities and opportunities for government and communities to work with industry to reduce toxic chemical releases and potential associated risks. However, it is important to consider that the quantity of releases is not an indicator of potential health impacts posed by the chemicals. Human health risks resulting from exposure to toxic chemicals are determined by many factors, as discussed further in the Hazard and Risk of TRI Chemicals section of this chapter.

Many factors can affect trends in releases at facilities, including production rates, management practices, the composition of raw materials used, and the installation of control technologies.

The following graph shows the disposal or other releases of TRI chemicals, including on-site disposal to land, water, and air, and off-site transfers for disposal.


From 2005 to 2015:

Helpful Concepts

What is a release?

In the context of TRI, a “release” of a chemical generally refers to a chemical that is emitted to the air, discharged to water, or placed in some type of land disposal unit.

  • Total disposal or other releases of TRI chemicals decreased by 24%.
  • This long-term decrease is driven mainly by declining air releases, down 56% (851 million pounds) since 2005. The decrease is driven by electric utilities due to a shift from coal to other fuel sources and the installation of control technologies at coal-fired power plants, which has led to decreases in hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions, such as hydrochloric acid.
  • Air emissions also declined during this 10-year period (down from 35% in 2005 to 20% in 2015) while land releases increased (up from 47% in 2005 to 60% in 2015).
  • The number of facilities reporting to the TRI Program declined by 10% overall, although the count has remained steady at approximately 22,000 facilities since 2010 (21,849 facilities reported to TRI for 2015).

From 2014 to 2015:

  • Total releases decreased by 15% due primarily to decreases in on-site land disposal by the metal mining sector.

Releases in 2015

Use the interactive chart below to explore how total releases of chemicals that occurred in 2015 are associated with different industry sectors, specific chemicals, and geographies. Visit the full 2015 TRI National Analysis Qlik dashboard to explore even more information about releases of chemicals. Note: the interactive chart and dashboard may not be compatible with Internet Explorer 10 or earlier.

Releases by Chemical

70% of releases are from 8 chemicals.


Note: In this graph, metals are combined with their metal compounds, although metals and compounds of the same metal are usually listed separately on the TRI list (e.g. lead is listed separately from lead and lead compounds).

Releases by Industry

The metal mining sector accounts for 37% of releases (1.24 billion pounds), which are primarily disposed of to land.


Sections in this chapter

Hazard and Risk of TRI Chemicals
Air Releases
Water Releases
Land Disposal
Off-site Disposal or Other Releases
Chemicals of Special Concern
Non-Production-Related Waste

This page was published in January 2017 and uses the 2015 TRI National Analysis dataset made public in TRI Explorer in October 2016.

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