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Setting Priorities and Reducing Risk: Application of a Relative Risk Scoring Approach to Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Data and Its Policy Implications

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Despite being arguably among the most effective pollution reduction programs ever instituted, a key concern exists reagrding the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA's) Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program, namely that the standard evaluation method used to measure and track progress under the program -gross mass quantity of chemicals released (i.e., raw TRI data)- has become outdated  and an alternative risk-based protocol to quantify TRI data is needed to drive future pollution reduciton efforts.

In this research effort, readily available, alternative risk-based protocols were reviewed, with one- the Relative Chronic Human  Health Risk Scoring System (RCHHRSS), developed via a joint collaboration of the public interest group Environmental Defense (ED) with researchers at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) - was selected for further application. Specifically, the results given by the RCHHRSS - accessible on-line via ED's "Scorecard" website (at - were compiled to conduct a  "State of TRI Emissions" evaluation for the US based on 1997-reporting year TRI  data (with supplemental analysis perfomed of newly-released 1998 TRI data).  The evaluation perfomed : 1) applied each data quantification approach (i.e., the traditional "total mass quantity released" approach and the new "relative risk scoring" method) separately, noting differences seen in the results and 2) utlilized both approaches in tandem to help set appropriate national priorities with respect to TRI release reduction efforts.

From the results of the evaluation, a policy response in the form of a new TRI-related program (termed "Target relative Risk Reduction TR3) was developed, aimed at significantly reducing potential chronic human health risks from TRI releases. The proposed TR3 program - cosnisting of a series of successive limited duration (3-5 years) release reduction efforts targeting identified high-scoring specific facility-level releases (as measured by the RCHHRSS or other relative risk scoring system) - was crafted as a focused, systematic, government-ccordinated, performance-based pollution reduction program, building upon the USEPA's prior 33/50 program while addressing shortcomings seen with 33/50.

Finally, from the overall work effort conducted, nearly fifty key findings were identified, thrirty-two conclusions were reached, and a set of eleven wide-ranging recommendations -mostly addressed to the USEPA - was put forth.

Research Areas
Urban Systems and Built Environment
Framework, Methods & Tools
Publication Type
Master's Thesis
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Staudinger, J. 2001. Setting priorities and reducing risk: Application of a relative risk scoring approach to Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data and its policy implications. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI: 256.