Impact Assessment of US Toxic Releases


The Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) is a collection of data detailing the way hazardous chemicals are handled in industrial facilities. By requiring certain manufacturing facilities to report releases, the EPA offered the public unprecedented access to environmentally relevant data. Since its inception in 1986, the TRI has grown and changed both in chemicals and industries monitored. This project uses the data visualization platform Tableau, publicly available yearly TRI reports, and Life Cycle Impact Assessment methodology to create a tool which 1) improves upon previous analyses of the TRI dataset, 2) offers an analysis based on previously underexplored environmental impacts, and 3) creates a simple online tool for communities, industry, and government to use to better identify and target problem areas.

To produce a useful tool, large and complicated data sets needed to be combined in such a way that is convenient to the user, free and accessible, and scientifically rigorous. To that end, TRI data were combined with EPA’s TRACI tool and NAICS industry codes, and eventually compiled into Tableau workbooks, which can be published online for public viewing. The Tableau desktop visualization software is free to students and provides relatively easy data manipulation, provided the data are prepared in the correct format.

The workbooks involved in this project, one of which is shown below, are all available on Tableau’s public service. Follow this link or visit and search “Ted Langlois”. The visualizations allow the user to toggle through various subsets of TRI data, including the visualization used in the case studies that follow. By making these datasets publicly available, we hope to increase the visibility of industry’s role in pollution and inspire groups to take control of their air, water, and natural resources.