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Compliance and Enforcement Annual Results FY2008:
Types of Pollutants

FY2008 Annual Results Topics

In fiscal year 2008, EPA obtained commitments in enforcement actions for facilities to reduce, treat, or eliminate an estimated 3.9 billion pounds of pollutants and 6.5 billion pounds of hazardous waste in the first year after pollutant controls are installed. The types of pollutants that make up these pounds include the following:


FY 2008 Estimated Pollutants Reduced, Treated, or Eliminated (pounds)
Air Emissions Water Discharges Land Releases
SOx, NOx, PM
1,734 million
Particulate Solids
1,811 million
Greenhouse Gases
64 million
Dissolved Solids

176 million
5 million
Oxygen Demanding Pollutants
109 million
Diazinon, Sodium Bromide and Other Pesticides


Hazardous Air Pollutants, Methanol, and Other Toxics
5 million
13 million
4 million
    Metals 261,000    
(Definition of terms)

Two groups of pollutants comprise the majority of the pollutants:  criteria air pollutants emitted into the air and particulate solids discharged into water:

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FY 2008 Pollutants in Estimated Hazardous Waste Treated, Minimized or Properly Disposed (pounds)
Phosphorus 11,555,000 2,4-Dinitrotoluene 4,200
Ammonia 2,171,000 Metals 29,200
Fluoride 7,213,000 Toxic Organics 19,000
Sulfate 10,855,000 Benzene 300
    Vinyl chloride 12,000

(Definition of terms)

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Definition of Terms

2,4-Dinitrotoluene is used in the manufacture of polyurethanes.  Long-term inhalation exposure to 2,4-dinitrotoluene affects the central nervous system (CNS) and blood in humans.  Kidney, liver, and mammary gland tumors were observed in animals orally exposed to 2,4-dinitrotoluene.  EPA has not classified 2,4-dinitrotoluene for potential carcinogenicity.

Ammonia/Nitrogen and Phosphorus are the most frequent cause of impairment in waterbodies, and can cause respiratory distress and neurological problems, taste and odor problems, increased longevity of fecal coliform bacteria in surface waters.

Bacteria can impair recreational, drinking water, and shellfish use of water. Exposure to pathogens in surface waters can lead to gastrointestinal, respiratory, eye, ear, nose, throat, and skin diseases.

Diazinon is very highly toxic to birds and has been linked to a number of bird kills.

Dissolved Solids (includes Sulfates) can detrimentally alter aquatic habitats and directly harm fish. Excessive dissolved solids can also remove water for domestic, industrial, and agricultural uses. They can also act as a laxative and effect the health of people with cardiac disease and high blood pressure, and women with toxemia associated with pregnancy.

Flouride is added to drinking water to promote dental health. Each community makes its own decision about whether or not to add fluoride. EPA has set an enforceable drinking water standard for fluoride of 4 mg/L (some people who drink water containing fluoride in excess of this level over many years could get bone disease, including pain and tenderness of the bones).

Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) are a set of 187 identified pollutants that are known or suspected to cause cancer or other serious health effects, such as reproductive effects or birth defects, or adverse environmental effects.  People exposed to toxic air pollutants at sufficient concentrations and durations may have an increased chance of getting cancer or experiencing other serious health effects. These health effects can include damage to the immune system, as well as neurological, reproductive (e.g., reduced fertility), developmental, respiratory and other health problems. In addition to exposure from breathing air toxics, some toxic air pollutants such as mercury can deposit onto soils or surface waters, where they are taken up by plants and ingested by animals and are eventually magnified up through the food chain. Like humans, animals may experience health problems if exposed to sufficient quantities of air toxics over time.

Metals can kill fish and aquatic invertebrates, impair laundry and drinking water uses, and cause a variety of human health problems, including damage to organs and in some instances, death.

Methanol exposure may occur from ambient air and during the use of solvents.  Acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) exposure of humans to methanol by inhalation or ingestion may result in blurred vision, headache, dizziness, and nausea.

Nitrogen  oxides (NOx) cause a wide variety of health and environmental impacts because of various compounds and derivatives in the family of nitrogen oxides, including nitrogen dioxide, nitric acid, nitrous oxide, nitrates, and nitric oxide.  Nitrogen oxides contribute to global warming, the formation of acid rain, toxic chemicals, and particulate matter pollution.  NOx may also deposit on soils and water bodies and contribute to nutrient overloads that deteriorates water quality. 

Nutrients can lead to significant water quality problems including harmful algal blooms, hypoxia and declines in wildlife and wildlife habitat. Excess nutrients can cause respiratory distress and neurological problems, taste and odor problems, increased longevity of fecal coliform bacteria in surface waters.

Oil and Grease lead to significant water quality problems including drowning of wildlife, toxic effects on fish, and smothering of benthic organisms. Excess oil can cause foul shorelines and beaches, thus removing recreational and aesthetic uses of water.

Oxygen Demanding Pollutants can asphyxiate aquatic live, and in the extreme, kill all aquatic life and cause odors.

Particulate Matter (PM)  Long-term exposures, such as those experienced by people living for many years in areas with high particle levels, have been associated with problems such as reduced lung function and the development of chronic bronchitis and even premature death.  Small particles pose the greatest problems because they can travel deep in the lungs and may even get into the bloodstream. Exposure to such particles can affect both your lungs and your heart.

Polychloronated Biphenyls (PCBs) are a mixture of individual chemicals which are no longer produced in the United States, but are still found in the environment. Health effects that have been associated with exposure to PCBs include acne-like skin conditions in adults and neurobehavioral and immunological changes in children. PCBs are known to cause cancer in animals.

Sediment/Solids can detrimentally alter aquatic habitats, lower dissolved oxygen which stresses aquatic life, and directly harm fish. Excessive solids can also reduce reservoir capacity, interfere with recreational and aesthetic uses of water, and in some cases, interfere with navigation. They can also impair treatment of drinking water and provide sites for pathogenic bacteria to grow.

Sodium Bromide Consumption or inhalation of sodium bromide salt (white table salt-like powder) resulting in repeated or prolonged exposure may cause skin rashes, nerve damage, depression, psychoses, memory loss, irritability and headaches.

Sulfur dioxide is one of six common air pollutants that are regulated under the Clean Air Act as criteria pollutants.  Peak levels of SO2 in the air can cause temporary breathing difficulty for people with asthma who are active outdoors and children, the elderly, and people with heart or lung disease.  Longer-term exposures to high levels of SO2 gas and particles cause respiratory illness and aggravate existing heart disease.  SO2 contributes to the formation of acid rain, ground level ozone (smog), and particulate matter pollution. 

Vinyl Chloride is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and vinyl products.  Short-term exposure to high levels of vinyl chloride in air has resulted in central nervous system effects, such as dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches in humans.  Long-term exposure to vinyl chloride through inhalation and oral exposure in humans has resulted in liver damage.  Cancer is a major concern from exposure to vinyl chloride via inhalation, as vinyl chloride exposure has been shown to increase the risk of a rare form of liver cancer in humans.  EPA has classified vinyl chloride as a Group A, human carcinogen.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)are compounds that evaporate readily into the air.  They are widely used as ingredients in household products.  Many VOCs are also hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).  The effects of these compounds vary greatly, but may include:  eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, allergic skin reactions, reproductive and developmental abnormalities, and long term effects such as organ and central nervous system damage, and cancer.  VOCs also contribute to smog (ground-level ozone) production.  Children, people with lung diseases such as asthma, and people who work or exercise outside are susceptible to adverse effects of smog (ground-level ozone) such as damage to lung tissue and reduction in lung function.

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