December 15, 1999

TRI Reporting of Lead and Lead Compounds

  • Susan Dudley

    Director, George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center
Key materials
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Rulemaking:

Lead and Lead Compounds; Lowering of Reporting Thresholds; Community Right-to Know Toxic Chemical Release Reporting; Proposed Rule. 40 CFR Part 372

Stated Purpose:

EPA believes that lead and lead compounds are persistent, bioaccumulative toxic (PBT) chemicals that warrant lower reporting thresholds than those currently established under EPCRA section 313.

Summary of RSP Comment:

EPA's proposal to reduce reporting thresholds for lead and lead compounds is not supported by available data. Despite extensive information on these chemicals, the reporting thresholds are not based on any quantitative analysis of the magnitude of releases that will be accounted for under different thresholds, nor the risks posed by releases.

EPA expects the cost of the reporting required by the proposal to be $992 million in present value terms. Evidence that every $15 million in regulatory costs results in one statistical death suggests that these costs alone translate to more than 66 additional deaths. Yet, EPA offers no evidence of direct benefits from this proposal.

The goal of TRI, to inform the public about hazards in their community, is intuitively desirable. However, since chemical releases are not equivalent to health or environmental hazards, TRI data on pounds of chemicals released fail to provide communities relevant information on risks that may be present. Furthermore, EPA data quality reviews reveal that the database contains such large errors as to make it unreliable for site-specific analysis, or as a comprehensive database.

It is time EPA took stock of what TRI has achieved. While EPA and others may have been successful at providing easy access to TRI data, there is no evidence that it has been successful at informing consumers and citizens of real health or environmental threats. More information is not necessarily more valuable nor more relevant to communities. EPA should take seriously its responsibility for informing, but not alarming, communities, and should thoughtfully consider RSP's proposals for increasing TRI benefits with a more targeted approach.