On January 8, 2001 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a final rule that lowers the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting threshold for lead and lead compounds to 100 lb per year. The rule could result in additional reporting requirements for close to 10,000 facilities in SIC Codes 10 to 39 and others, including electrical utilities burning coal and oil.
The TRI Report was created under section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). Companies employing more than ten full-time employees that use or process listed toxic chemicals are required to annually report how the chemicals were used, how much was lost to the environment, and what waste reduction/ recycling activities are in place.
During the past 7-8 years, the EPA added federal facilities, expanded the number of listed chemicals by 286, added seven additional industrial group categories, and sought to reduce the reporting burden by delisting certain chemicals and creating an alternative reporting threshold for facilities falling below certain release thresholds (Form A).
On October 29, 1999, EPA issued the latest modification to the TRI report (64 FR 58666) on reporting requirements that focused on a group of toxic chemicals that persist and bioaccumulate (PBT) in the environment. EPA evaluated lead and lead compounds in accordance with the chemical persistent and/or bioaccumulation criteria and concluded that lead is a PBT chemical. As a result, the EPA lowered the reporting for these compounds to 100 lb per year compared with 10,000 or 25,000 lb/year based on how the lead or lead compounds were used, manufactured, or processed at a facility.
What are lead-related health concerns?
Lead absorbed in the body primarily is distributed to the blood, soft tissues (kidney, bone marrow, liver, and brain) and to mineralizing tissues (bones and teeth). In one study, for example, following a single dose of lead in adults, one-half of the lead absorbed remained in the blood for approximately 25 days, in soft tissues for about 40 days, and in bone for more than 25 years. Once in the bone, lead can reenter the blood and soft tissues. This is of particular concern to women of childbearing years due to lead poising and its impact on intelligence, motor skills, hearing, and neurobehavioral development in the fetus.
Impact on industry
Comments to the final rule from business and industry ranged from questionable science used to assess the impact of lead to EPA's delegated authority to pass rules. Following these comments, EPA concluded that lead is a persistent chemical, so citizens have a right to know how much lead is being released to the environment. The EPA created nearly a 50-page federal register document mostly directed at answering comments with the following conclusions:
- The drop in threshold to 100 lb will require many facilities that were not required to report in the past to report in 2002.
- There is no de minimis exemption for determining which products contain lead. Basically, if a supplier informs a company that the product contains lead, it must be tracked. This is especially significant to smelters, pulp mills, electrical utilities burning coal and oil, automakers, glassmakers, oil refineries and dozens of small metalworks facilities. Due to a report sent to EPA from an active industry group, stainless steel, brass and bronze alloys were exempted from the 100 lb rule, but manufacturers are required to follow the existing 10,000 lb and 25,000 lb thresholds.
- Facilities must track lead releases down to 0.1 lb increments, unless the release is greater than 10 lb.
- Alternative threshold reporting (Form A) is not allowed.
- Release ranges are not permitted.
All TRI information is published on the Internet and accessible to the general public. It is important for companies that think the rule may affect them to begin tracking the amount of lead entering their facility to determine if the 100 lb threshold will be exceeded. If so, those companies should be actively tracking releases of lead to the environment in preparation for the July 1, 2002 reporting deadline. Additional information on TRI reporting is available at http://www.epa.gov/tri.