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PBT and TRI Chemicals

Photograph of green contaminated water surrounded by dry gray dirt

When assessing the risk of property contamination, understanding the differences between Polybrominated biphenyls (PBT) and Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) chemicals is crucial. PBT chemicals are notorious for their persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity, posing long-term environmental and health risks. On the other hand, TRI chemicals, identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), encompass a broad spectrum of substances released into the environment that manufacturing facilities must report on. This resource aims to unravel the complexities behind PBT and TRI chemicals, shedding light on their unique characteristics, environmental impact, and significance in evaluating property contamination risks. By understanding these differences, property owners, environmental professionals, and policymakers can make informed decisions, mitigating potential hazards and fostering a safer and healthier environment.

PBT and TRI Chemicals

The impact of PBT and TRI chemicals on both environmental and human health cannot be understated. With their persistence in the environment, PBT chemicals not only pose a threat for extended periods but also escalate the risk of bioaccumulation in the food chain, leading to potentially severe health impacts on wildlife and humans. Simultaneously, TRI chemicals, though varied in their nature, contribute to pollution and health risks through their release into air, water, and land. Understanding these impacts is pivotal for comprehensively assessing the risks associated with property contamination and for fostering initiatives aimed at environmental preservation and public health protection.

What are PBT Chemicals?

Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxins (PBTs) are hazardous substances that linger indefinitely in the environment, posing potential risks to humans and wildlife alike. While many chemicals degrade naturally through sunlight exposure, reactions with other substances, or bacterial metabolism, PBTs possess properties that make them resistant to environmental breakdown. These chemicals are deemed "persistent" and can build up in both soil and water ecosystems.

Studies have linked various PBTs to a range of adverse effects in humans, including nervous system disorders, reproductive and developmental problems, cancer and genetic impacts. The presence of PBTs increases the likelihood of exposure for humans, pets, and wild animals, especially since these compounds do not readily degrade or may spread extensively throughout the environment. Furthermore, the same structural traits that allow PBTs to withstand environmental degradation also enable them to resist metabolic processing in humans or animals, compounding their potential for harm.

PBTs can be emitted into the environment either deliberately, as in the case of pesticides, or inadvertently, through byproducts of combustion or manufacturing processes. These substances are often carried globally by air currents and other environmental vectors, leading to pollution in areas far removed from their original source.

- What are Some Examples of PBT Chemicals?

Metals like lead, mercury, and arsenic are inherently 'persistent' because they are fundamental elements that cannot be further decomposed or eliminated from the environment. The EPA has also identified chemicals such as dioxins, asbestos, hexachlorobenzene, and polyclorinated biphenyls as PBTs.

What are TRI Chemicals?

In general, chemicals covered by the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program are those that can cause cancer or other chronic human health effects, significant adverse acute human health effects, and/or significant adverse environmental effects. The current TRI toxic chemical list contains 794 individually listed chemicals and 33 chemical categories.

The Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program monitors the management of specific hazardous chemicals that could endanger human health and the environment. Facilities across various sectors in the U.S. are required to submit annual reports detailing the quantities of each chemical they discharge into the environment or manage via recycling, energy recovery, and treatment processes. They must also describe measures taken to minimize or prevent the production of chemical waste, ensuring a comprehensive approach to environmental protection and public health.

PBT vs. TRI Chemicals

Many PBT chemicals have been added to the TRI list of toxic chemicals. PBT chemicals are particularly alarming due to their toxicity, enduring presence in the environment, resistance to degradation, and their ability to accumulate in body tissues.

Impact of PBT and TRI Chemicals in Real Estate

There are various environmental risks in the real estate industry. The impact of PBT and TRI chemicals on the real estate sector is profound and multifaceted, influencing property valuations, investment decisions, and development considerations. Properties located in areas with high levels of these chemicals may face decreased demand and values due to the potential health risks and the cost associated with remediation efforts. In fact, according to a 2015 study, housing prices within 0.5 miles of a toxic plant’s site decreased by about 11 percent after a plant opens, relative to the period before the plant was constructed.

How do Environmental Issues Impact Real Estate Transactions?

Environmental litigation can greatly affect real estate transactions. For instance, if a property is involved in environmental disputes or has contamination problems, it could significantly delay or even halt the sale or purchase process altogether. For investors and developers, the presence of PBT and TRI chemicals poses significant due diligence challenges, necessitating comprehensive environmental assessments to avoid the financial pitfalls tied to contamination.

Furthermore, regulatory implications can affect land use planning and development prospects. Properties contaminated with hazardous substances may be subject to stringent regulatory oversight, cleanup mandates, and potentially, legal liabilities. This can deter investment and complicate real estate transactions, as lenders and insurers may also be reluctant to engage with such properties without clear remediation plans or assurances.

For homeowners and potential buyers, concerns over indoor air quality, drinking water safety, and the overall health impacts of exposure to these chemicals can influence purchasing decisions, leading to stigmatization of affected areas. Real estate professionals must therefore be adept at navigating the complexities surrounding PBT and TRI chemicals, ensuring transparent communication and employing expert environmental assessments to guide stakeholders through the challenges posed by property contamination.

How to Identify Contaminated Land

It is critical for property owners, real estate agents, and investors alike to be aware of any potential contamination issues associated with their property or a property that they're interested in purchasing. To find out if a property is contaminated, the most thorough method is to get a formal Phase 1 Report. A Phase 1 report, also referred to as a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment (ESA), is a detailed assessment of potential environmental contamination on a property.

To identify potentially contaminated land before investing in a formal Phase 1 report, you can use various online resources to determine a specific property's proximity to contaminated sites, Superfund sites, abandoned wells, and underground tanks. The closer a property is to a contaminated site, the more likely that it is at risk of contamination.

Getting a Free Property Report on LandGate’s map can provide you with any U.S. property’s risk for potential contamination along with in-depth details about the specific chemicals and the contaminated site’s remediation status:

Screenshot of contamination data in LandGate's example property report

Check out LandApp to pinpoint the specific location of each Superfund site, contaminated site, abandoned well, and underground tanks in the United States. This data is used to provide an Industrial Contamination Risk Index for any property nationwide to let you know if a property is at a high or low contamination risk at a glance. Within this data is specific information about the specific chemicals that can potentially contaminate a property and information about its chemical properties (PBT or TRI):


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