President Bush and the Environmental Protection Agency want to weaken the largely successful Toxics Release Inventory program, which requires companies to tell the public how they dispose of or release nearly 650 chemicals that may harm human health and the environment. The disclosure program makes data available for anyone — journalists, policymakers, investors or parents — to learn exactly which chemicals are being released from corporate smokestacks and discharge pipes.
Congress developed this critical program in 1986, in response to the catastrophic deaths of thousands of people after a spill of toxic chemicals at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. It has worked well since its inception, but the Environmental Protection Agency is now proposing three detrimental changes that could go into effect within the next year.
The first would relax the current annual reporting requirement and let companies make reports every other year instead; the second would allow polluters to release 10 times more toxic chemicals — up to 5,000 pounds annually — without disclosing the volume released or where the pollutants went; and the third would permit companies to conceal releases of up to 500 pounds annually of particularly dangerous toxic materials, like PCB's, lead and mercury, which can accumulate in people's bodies. All three changes effectively increase the amount of pollution that companies can emit without telling anyone.
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