Several databases with environmental themes are easily accessible on the Internet. These range from federal databases on industrial toxic releases to databases kept by nonprofit organizations on environmentally friendly products and cosmetics. The quality of the data ranges widely from data set to data set, depending on which organization collected and submitted the data.
For instance, the EPA is home to a database documenting chemicals that can be harmful to human health or the environment. Companies that produce these chemicals are required to notify the EPA within 30 days of becoming aware of the research. However, the EPA often agrees to keep the chemical name a secret or agrees to keep the name of the chemical producer and its location secret. Having said that, there is still a lot of useful information in these databases that can be used to perform an investigation of chemical releases, toxic releases, Superfund sites and beach closings.
Before using the database to search for stories, however, the users should become familiar with the limitations of the database. For instance, the EPA provides a public database known as the Toxics Release Inventory. This database provides information on toxins released by factories and industrial sites throughout the United States. The information has been gathered since 1987. However, chemicals reported in the database vary from year to year. New chemicals may have been added to the list, while others may have been deleted.