This web map was designed at the Huxley Spatial Institute at Western Washington University (WWU) in Bellingham, Washington and funded through a grant from the Environmental Council of States (ECOS). The concept for this web map application was introduced in 2011 in the book, Coming Clean, by Michael E. Kraft, Mark Stephan, and Troy D. Abel. That book puts forth the idea that information disclosure can be a policy strategy for environmental protection, and this web map is designed to use visual representation of environmental information to provide access to a larger audience of citizens so that they may be able to influence the environmental policy directly affecting their health and the health of their communities.
This web map visually represents industrial air pollution information to citizens across the United States by mapping the relative risk from air pollution that industrial facilities pose to the human health of their communities and how those risks might change over time. Facility pollution information comes from the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) , an inventory by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the States to collect data annually on releases and transfers of certain toxic chemicals from industrial facilities. TRI facilities are depicted as circles with colors that correlate to a risk screening value that is based on modeled output data from the EPA's Risk Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) model for assessing TRI data. RSEI is a screening model, not a risk assessment that allows one to make a direct link a facility’s chemical release to harm being caused to a specific population or location. As with any model, a number of simplifying assumptions are made.
Circles representing TRI facilities have been classified into 7 sizes and 7 colors, to reflect changes in pollution performance and amount so the map user will be able to see if a certain facility has been getting better or worse over time, or, if their neighboring industrial plants are getting safer and cleaner. Smaller circles indicate fewer pounds released; larger circles indicate more pounds released. Each increase in size represents an order of magnitude increase of pounds of pollutants released (Figure 1). Lighter circles represent polluters who are posing less risk to human health based on the RSEI model risk screening value; darker circles represent polluters who are posing more risk. Each shift in color represents an order of magnitude change in risk (Figure 2). Gray circles represent facilities that did not report any air releases for that map year. Users are also able to click facilities to get information about the facility, including emission trends over time, specific chemicals released and related health information, as well as comparisons of the facility to other similar facilities in its state and in the United States. There are currently 17,000 facilities reporting to TRI and viewable in the web map for the years 1996 to 2010.
Read more about RSEI.