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Lead Is the Most Released Toxic Chemical in Missouri

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In my previous post I discussed the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory. In this post, I will update toxic waste data for Missouri for 2013.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency 2015b.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency 2015b.

Toxic releases can occur either onsite at the industrial facility that uses them, or offsite at some toxic materials treatment and storage facility. In Missouri, offsite releases account for only 4% of all releases. Nationally, they account for 2%, even less than in Missouri.

Materials can be released into the air, they can be discharged into surface water, and they can be dumped on the land. The first chart at right shows Missouri toxic releases by release category in 2013. By far the largest percentage, 82%, is dumped on the land.

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Data source: Environmental Protection Agency 2015b.

Data source: Environmental Protection Agency 2015b.

Toxics can also be managed by recycling, by energy recovery, by treatment, or by other methods (listed from most desirable to least). The second chart at right shows Missouri managed toxic wastes in 2013. The largest amount is recycled for reuse. The next largest amount is treated to make it less toxic. Note that the total amount managed is more than 5 times the amount released.

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Data source: Environmental Protection Agency 2015b.

Data source: Environmental Protection Agency 2015b.

The industries responsible for releasing the largest amounts of toxic chemicals are shown in the third chart. As in 2012, metal mining is the largest, accounting for virtually half of all toxic releases, and electric utilities are second. Releases from the food/beverage/tobacco industry continue to be larger than those from the chemicals or plastics & rubber industries, and it continues to blow my mind! The biggest change from 2012 is that releases from the petroleum industry were significantly reduced. Yearly releases from various industries tend to be volatile, so don’t be too aggressive interpreting a trend.

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Data source: Environmental Protection Agency 2015b.

Data source: Environmental Protection Agency 2015b.

The chemicals that are most released in Missouri are shown in the next chart at right. As in 2012, compounds of lead zinc, barium and copper are the most released. The amount of lead and barium released actually increased from 2012. Elemental forms of many of these compounds are also released and tallied separately by the EPA.

Chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) are of most concern to the EPA. These are chemicals that remain in the environment and in the body. They build up over time, meaning that repeated small releases can lead to big trouble. Lead accounts for 98% of PBT releases nationwide. In Missouri, lead emissions are driven by mining activities. More lead was released in Missouri in 2012 than any other toxic compound – some 22.6 million pounds of it!

Mercury compounds are also a PBT of concern. Coal burning power plants are the largest source of mercury emissions in the United States. Nationwide, mercury emissions have been falling, from over 140,000 lb. in 2004 to under 80,000 in 2012. They increased in Missouri, however, rising from 5,004 to 9,850 pounds in 2013. One source in Joplin accounted for more than half of all statewide emissions.

Two other classes of PBTs include polycyclic aromatics and dioxin/dioxin-like compounds. In 2013 522,845 pounds of polycyclic aromatics were released in Missouri, while 0.07 pounds of dioxin/dioxin-like compounds. That may not seem like much dioxin, but this chemical is is toxic even in very, very small amounts. (EPA 2015c).

In the next post I will look at some toxic release trends over time.

Sources:

Environmental Protection Agency. 2015a. Toxic Release Inventory: TRI National Analysis 2013. Available online at www2.epa.gov/toxics-release-inventory-tri-program/2013-tri-national-analysis.

Environmental Protection Agency. 2015b. 2013 TRI Factsheet: State – Missouri. This is a webpage with data released in March, 2015. http://iaspub.epa.gov/triexplorer/tri_factsheet.factsheet_forstate?pZip=&pCity=&pCounty=&pState=MO&pYear=2013&pDataSet=TRIQ2&pParent=NAT&pPrint=1.

Environmental Protection Agency. 2015c. Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxic (PBT) Chemicals Covered by the TRI Program. Web page accessed 12/2/15 at http://www2.epa.gov/toxics-release-inventory-tri-program/persistent-bioaccumulative-toxic-pbt-chemicals-covered-tri.

Environmental Protection Agency. 2015d. TRI Explorer, Chemical Report.

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1 Comment

  1. […] as 2014, more lead was released into the environment in Missouri than any other toxic chemical. (See here.) Lead used to be released into the environment through the inclusion of tetraethyl lead in […]

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