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Risk-Screening of Environmental Indicators - A Way to Identify Priorities

The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed the Risk Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) to prioritize toxic releases that might be of public health concern. Whether a chemical causes harm depends on many factors, but includes the amount a person is exposed to and the toxicity of the chemical. RSEI takes the amount of toxics put into the environment, analyzes their toxicity and risk to humans, and ranks their potential risk relative to other Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) releases. RSEI scores can be used to analyze trends and evaluate the need for more investigation.

The newest RSEI software (version 2.3.1) added three years to the dataset, making 2010 TRI data the most recent available. The RSEI program can be downloaded from EPA's website. The RSEI model uses information provided by the TRI. Washington's RSEI scores show that risks from toxic chemical releases continue to decrease. This is good news!

good news

RSEI data can be used to identify and rank facilities that have increased or decreased their RSEI score from year to year. Chromium and chromium compounds, both persistent, bioaccumulative toxics (PBTs), top the list for the greatest reductions in risk score between 2007 and 2010. A high RSEI risk score shows an area for more study and not necessarily an area of high risk. 

For more details, see:
List of TRI Chemicals with a reduction in RSEI score
List of TRI Chemicals with an increase in RSEI score

Why should we be concerned about toxic releases?
The amount of toxic chemicals released represents potential risk to human health and the environment. Toxic chemicals can cause cancer, birth defects, and other health problems. Releases of toxic chemicals threaten the health of our air, soil, and water. TRI data and RSEI scores can help identify priorities and opportunities to work with industry and others to reduce toxic chemical releases.

What are the benefits of reducing toxic releases?
Reducing toxics can:

  • Reduce risks to human health.
  • Improve the quality of our air, land, and water.
  • Decrease liability and other costs associated with manufacturing or handling hazardous chemicals. 

What are some actions being taken to decrease risks from toxic releases?
Ecology and other organizations are:

  • Providing technical assistance to businesses to help them reduce their use of toxic materials.
  • Working with businesses to incorporate lean manufacturing methods into their processes.
  • Researching alternatives to chemicals that are highly toxic.

Want more information about Ecology’s efforts to reduce toxic chemicals in Washington?
Pollution Prevention
Green Chemistry
Assessing the Safety of Chemical Alternatives
Beyond Waste
Lean and Green Project
Technical Resources for Engineering Efficiency (TREE)