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TRI to Communicate: Public Knowledge of the Federal Toxics Release Inventory


  • Direct correspondence to Mark Atlas, 8633 Kelso Terrace, Gaithersburg, MD 20877 〈〉. Data used in this article are available from the author on request. Michael Vasu and Michael Dimock assisted in the design and implementation of the survey research. This research has been supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, Grant R828721, but it has not been subjected to any EPA review and therefore does not necessarily reflect the views of the EPA, and no official endorsement should be inferred.


Objective. Investigate public knowledge and use of information from the U.S. Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), the most internationally prominent and well-regarded environmental information program, providing industrial facility chemical release and transfer data since 1989.

Method. Three-phase survey panel of 1,292 people in two counties.

Results. Only very small percentages recalled, without prompting, TRI or recognized it when it was mentioned. Only minuscule percentages recalled TRI facility names when asked for local facilities using hazardous chemicals. Respondents did not recognize most local TRI facilities or know if they used hazardous chemicals. Very few who were aware of TRI information obtained it from the sources Congress intended. Finally, when provided with TRI information, many respondents did not review it and virtually no one took any action.

Conclusions. These results raise concerns about the TRI program's effectiveness in enhancing public knowledge of nearby industrial facilities using hazardous chemicals.