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Toxics in Your Neighborhood? There’s an App for That!

January 5, 2012
Three smokestacks in Halifax

photo from flickr / fanboy30

Oh, the Environmental Protection Agency. Such a political punching bag these days! We feel bad for this group of well-intentioned engineers and scientists.  They’re charged with figuring out how much pollution is too much, and how to deal with it — and they have to deal with so much political fire.

But in the meantime, they’ve been creating some useful stuff!  Today, we want to point you towards their “My Right To Know” mobile page.  (You can access it on your computer, too.)

Turns out the EPA keeps reams of data — some from testing, most from self-reporting — about pollution.  After a chemical plant in Bhopal, India released tons of toxic gases in 1984, environmental groups pushed to require polluters to TELL the public what they were doing!  (Read more about the Bhopal disaster if you aren’t familiar. Scary!)

After that, the Toxics Release Inventory was created.  Any plant that processes or releases a good amount of toxic chemicals must report how much they’re using.  What a reasonable idea!

But often this stuff is hard to access.  Enter the World Wide Web and the mobile phone.

Screenshots from the My Right To Know tool

Go to the website, and if you’re on a qualifying phone or browser, it’ll automatically locate you.  If not, enter your ZIP code.

A series of blue and gray dots will appear, unless you live in a pristine, unpolluted area.  (Kudos if so!)

The blue dots indicate polluters that have reported under the Toxics Release Inventory.  Click through to see what chemicals were released; whether they were dumped into the air, water, or ground; and what their health effects may be.

Gray dots are polluters that don’t fit under this regulation, but instead may have other EPA records – compliance with laws, past pollution, etc.

Give it a try!  Let us know how your neighborhood compares.

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