U.S. Federal Toxmap Website Closes

TOXMAP® is no longer.  Launched an run by the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) fifteen years ago, the website closed down in December.

ToxMap was a Geographic Information System (GIS) that usedmaps of the United States and Canada to help users visually explore data primarily from the U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and Superfund Program, as well as some non-EPA datasets. It combined pollution data  from the U.S. EPA and at least a dozen other U.S. government sources.

ToxMap helped users create nationwide, regional, or local area maps showing where TRI chemicals are released on-site into the air, water, and ground. It also provided facility and release details, color-codes release amounts for a single year or year range, and aggregates release data over multiple years. Maps also showed locations of Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) sites, listing all chemical contaminants present at these sites. Two versions of TOXMAP wereavailable: the classic version of TOXMAP released in 2004, and a newer version of TOXMAP based on Adobe® Flash/Flex technology. The newer version provided an improved map appearance and interactive capabilities and additional datasets such as U.S. EPA coal plant emissions data and U.S. commercial nuclear power plants.

ToxMap began in 2004 as a way of culling data that the U.S. EPA collected on toxic releases and conveying it to the public in more accessible and relevant way. Thanks largely to the 1986 Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), the agency had been collecting huge amounts of data on chemicals of concern being released from individual facilities—the Toxic Release Inventory. But until the early 2000s, this vast store of “public” information demanded considerable time and expertise to find and tap, much less to interpret.

The development of ToxMap was part of a broader government push towards data transparency. ToxMap made it much easier to find out about the chemicals a plant in a neighborhood was releasing into the local water or air, or about where the nearest hazardous wastes sites were located.