(NaturalNews) Releases of mercury, PCBs, lead and dioxin into the environment increased significantly between 2006 and 2007, according to the annual "Toxics Release Inventory," published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
"This information underscores the need for fundamental transparency and provides a powerful tool for protecting public health and the environment," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. "Serving the public's right to know is the crucial first step in reducing toxic chemicals in the places where we live, work and raise children."
The "Toxics Release Inventory" classifies all releases together, including legal and illegal dumping, disposal in mine reclamation ponds (which leach into groundwater) and disposal in toxic dump sites.
Between 2006 and 2007, PCB releases increased by 40 percent, due to disposal of supplies manufactured before the substances were banned in 1979. Mercury releases, mostly due to mining, increased by 38 percent. Dioxin releases increased by 11 percent, and lead releases increased by 1 percent. Overall releases of all persistent, bioaccumalitive and toxic chemicals or metals increased by 1 percent.
PCBs and dioxins are highly toxic to animal life, particularly birds. Both accumulate in animal (including human) bodies and disrupt the body's hormonal and reproductive systems. Lead and mercury can cause neurological and behavioral problems, particularly in children. All four pollutants are especially dangerous to pregnant women and children, due to their effects on the body's development.
According to the "Toxics Release Inventory," slight decreases in air and water pollution occurred between 2006 and 2007 -- 7 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
In December 2006, the Bush administration implemented a rule decreasing the thoroughness of the EPA's toxics release reporting program. In March of this year, however, President Obama signed a law overturning the Bush policy.
"The public has a right to know about chemicals in their air and water," said New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who authored the law. "The Bush administration watered down this law and let facilities hide critical data about their toxic chemical emissions. It is time to restore the public's right to know about the release of toxic chemicals in their communities."