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DECEMBER 30, 1998   4:08 PM
CONTACT: US Public Interest Research Group
Allison LaPlante, Liz Hitchcock (202) 546-9707
EPA Proposes Right To Know Expansion; PIRG Says Step In Right Direction, But More Action Needed
WASHINGTON - December 30 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today a proposal to expand the publicís Right to Know about toxic chemicals released into the environment. The EPAís proposed expansion will give communities more information on releases of substances like mercury and dioxin that are highly toxic in small quantities, persist in ecosystems for long periods of time, and accumulate in human and animal tissue. Although the proposal sets stricter reporting requirements, it does not require full public disclosure on all environmental releases of these "persistent bioaccumulative toxins."

"EPAís proposal is a significant step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go to ensure complete access to the information about these particularly dangerous chemicals in our communities," said Allison LaPlante, U.S. PIRG Environmental Advocate. "Substances like mercury, dioxin and lead are some of the most dangerous chemicals known to science we have the right to known when industries release any quantity of these toxins into the environment."

Releases of substances like mercury, dioxin, and lead toxins linked to cancer, birth defects, reproductive disorders and other serious health problems are often not reported to the EPA or the public. Due to a loophole in the federal

Right to Know reporting law, releases of these chemicals escape reporting because existing reporting thresholds are set too high. Currently, under the Community Right to Know Actís Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), facilities are required to report chemical releases only if they "manufacture or process" at least 25,000 pounds, or "otherwise use" at least 10,000 pounds of a given TRI chemical. Under EPAís proposal, reporting thresholds would be lowered to 100 pounds or 10 pounds, depending on the chemical.

"Although this expansion will provide the public with critical information, even a reporting threshold of 10 pounds for a substance like mercury would leave the public in the dark about harmful levels of emission," said LaPlante.

"It takes just 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury to contaminate an entire lake to the point where fish are unsafe to eat, and as little as one meal of contaminated fish eaten by an expecting mother can cause brain damage in an unborn child. Industries should be required to tell us about any mercury released into the environment."

"Public information is one of our most powerful tools for protecting ourselves from exposure to these dangerous toxic chemicals," said LaPlante. "We applaud the Clinton Administration and the EPA for going forward with this critical expansion, but urge them to strengthen their proposal. To protect public health and the environment, EPA should set a zero threshold for reporting of any persistent or bioaccumulative toxin."


To learn more about the PIRG Toxics Campaign, visit our web site at .



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