The data, which are self-reported estimates for about 650 chemicals and compounds emitted by a select group of sources, have several limitations, but provide a good starting point for determining what toxic substances are being released in your community and around the country.
However, it'll take some digging to sift through the information to get an accurate picture of trends and specifics. EPA is providing less analysis this year, and is trying to cut back TRI reporting in several ways.
Overall, EPA says total releases into the environment increased 3% from 2004 to 2005. That number includes an increase of 5% offsite (such as air and water emissions) and 2% onsite (such as burying).
Included in those averages are a 5% increase in "persistent bioaccumulative toxic chemicals" of all types (including a 6% increase for lead, at a time when EPA is trying to reduce or eliminate reporting of lead as a major air pollutant, and research continues to show adverse health effects at lower and lower levels), a 9% increase in carcinogens of all types (including a 54% increase in arsenic), and a 10% increase from federal facilities. Much more remains to be discovered in the data.