The Environmental Defense Fund provides free access to the type of value-added service which libraries usually pay big bucks for: that of collating, organizing and interpreting data collected by the federal government. The Chemical Scorecard, created for the purpose of making pollution statistics more accessible, uses data from the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory plus other governmental and scientific agencies. The information is logically arranged, extensively cross-linked, and searchable. The sites impressive documentation of data and sources is better than in many reference books. For example, each claim of toxicity references the studies establishing that claim and the scope of the EPA data is thoroughly explained. The overall design is professional and there are viewing options such as a text-only mode or a personalized home page focused on an individual area.
The amount of data available on this site is huge, covering more than 17,000 facilities and more than 5,000 chemicals. The entire site is searchable, but using the six major sections, some of which are individually searchable, is more effective. The first and most publicized section is the "Polluter Locator," which will display a report on the top polluting facilities in a state, county, or zip code. Only metropolitan areas have reports on a zip code area; most default to the county level. Some rural areas return a report on the whole state. The report includes location and contact information for polluting facilities, the amount of pollution released, the health risks caused by the pollution, the ranking of the facilities as compared to the rest of the U.S., and the specific chemicals involved. The second section, "Pollution Rankings," ranks the worst zip codes, counties, states, and facilities. "About the Chemicals" provides detailed information on over 5,000 chemicals. It is searchable by name or CAS number and includes links to many other web sites with relevant information. The fourth section is "Health Effects," which lists chemicals known or suspected to cause health problems such as cancer or birth defects. The fifth section, "Regulatory Controls," describes the federal and state regulations governing chemicals. The "Take Action" section provides information on contacting the EPA, environmental activist groups, and the polluting facilities.
Although any information presented by an activist group must be taken with a grain of salt, The Chemical Scorecard mostly sticks to well-documented facts. The only problem with the site is the overwhelming quantity of information. Students or faculty working in environmental or chemical fields will get the most out of this site. Casual users can easily discover polluting facilities in their areas, but understanding the implications of the data will take some study.
Austin Peay State University