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Halloween "The Idea is to be the scariest thing you can think of"

Lisa Peters  /  Tuesday, October 30, 2018  /  Categories: Just in Case  /  Rate this article:
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The other day I was reading fivethirtyeight's "Significant Digits" column and one of the stories it summarized was about the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and "Teflon Toxin." See, "112 new PFAS componds." This reminded me of one of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes Halloween comic strips - click here.

In the 1986 comic Calvin decides that scariest thing he can think of to be for Halloween is a barrel of toxic waste.

This made me (legal research librarian) wonder what is going on with toxic waste law. Specifically, I wondered what the EPA is doing in regard to toxic waste. When I start researching regulatory law I always start by going to the agency's website. On an agency's website there is so much more information than just the law. Often you can find guidelines, forms, research studies, checklists, and more. The EPA's website is www.epa.gov. (Googling EPA will find the site.)

The United States Environmental Protection Agency's website is set-up to help users find information in a number of different ways. You can find information by topic, current news, state or community, and by the statutes and regulations. And, there is the "Search EPA.gov" search. 

So, starting with a search of "toxic waste" (not using quotes - the search is run as an AND search, "toxic AND waste").  The first entry I get is a definition from Terms of Environment: "Toxic Waste  A waste that can produce injury if inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin."  While looking at this I notice that the last time the Terms of Environment was updated was June 18, 2009. So, not useful in finding out really current information.

Looking through the other entries, I find "Research on the Economics of Industrial Toxic Waste." This turns out to be information about research the EPA funded in 1992, the amount was for $214, 931. The scariest find here is there are no project reports or status reports linked to this funding. But, maybe there is other research about toxic waste with reports. From the website on this report we can click on any page in the address, which includes "Grant-Funded Research in Environmental Economics." These can only be found by title or economic topic. Since I am looking for information about toxic waste not an economic topic that will not be useful. When I look under titles, interestingly there is nothing dated later than 2010. I am looking for more current information so I am going to switch to looking trying to find information from the "Environmental Topics" link on the homepage.

The Environmental Topics page gives a list of major topics and some narrower ones (bed bugs, lead, mold, pesticides, and radon all pretty scary stuff). However, it also has a link to one of my favorite finding tools, an A-Z index. I check under "toxic" I find an entry for "Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)." When I click the link I find out that the law was updated in 2016, and I get information about the text of the law, the history of the original act, compliance and enforcement, and a link to the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT). The OPPT link leads me to a list of programs the office manages. One of which is the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program.

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program pages gather a wealth of information about toxic releases. There is a link to a list of chemicals as well as covered industries. It also offers several tools which allow researchers to find information about a chemical, a facility, or a waste management. There are links to the text of the statues, regulations, and executive orders, as well as information about enforcement actions. This looks like a good place to start researching toxic waste.

This October marks the 30th anniversary of this program. The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) was signed by President Reagan in October 1986, maybe the President also thought that toxic chemicals could be one of the scariest things you can think of. 

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