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EPA selects six universities to explore public’s toxic awareness


The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced its selection of academic partners for the 2014 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) University Challenge, a project designed to find new ways to educate the public about industrial releases of toxic chemicals in communities and around the country.

The University of California, Los Angeles’ (UCLA) Institute of Environment and Sustainability was one of six universities selected.

“The EPA’s TRI University Challenge allows students to learn about environmental issues, work as a team and produce results that will be used by communities for years to come,” said Magali Delmas, Professor of Management at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our work that will help encourage facilities to reduce emissions and provide residents with more access to information about facilities that emit toxics in their neighborhoods.”

Through these partnerships, EPA will work with six diverse academic institutions to raise student awareness of environmental data as well as develop practical and replicable projects focused on data visualization and analytics for improving the presentation and understanding of TRI data. As part of UCLA’s project, the university will:

  • Issue evaluative ratings of environmental performance of facilities in the Greater Los Angeles Area that that emit toxic chemicals into the environment
  • Lead a workshop with manufacturers to discuss ratings and identify opportunities to reduce toxic chemical releases
  • Use 2013 TRI data to develop and update maps and graphs displaying comparative TRI facility performance on a variety of factors.

TRI provides communities with information about toxic chemical releases to the air, water, and land, as well as what industries are doing to reduce and prevent these releases. TRI helps industry, government, non-governmental organizations, and the public make more informed decisions to protect their health and environment. 

In addition to UCLA, projects were proposed for 2014 by faculty and students from Drew University, Southeastern Louisiana University, the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, Tennessee State University, and the University of South Carolina. 

The 2014 TRI University Challenge follows the successful 2013-2014 Challenge, in UCLA along with seven other academic partners collaborated with EPA on projects related to environmental education, pollution prevention, stakeholder engagement, and data mash-ups. UCLA’s 2013 project resulted in the development of the Cal EcoMaps website that includes an interactive map of TRI reporting facilities in the Los Angeles Basin. The website will allow users to see information on profiled facilities such as total toxic releases per facility, percent of waste treated through preferred management practices, and an estimate of associated cancer risks. 

The selected projects will begin in the fall of 2014 and are expected to conclude at the end of the academic year in the summer of 2015. 

More information about TRI: www.epa.gov/tri


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