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Lead and TRI Reporting

NMFRC note: This compliance assistance page was originally prepared in 2001, when EPA lowered the threshold for lead (Pb) that triggers requirements under TRI. Although the lead rule is no longer "new" as referred to on this page, it is still applicable to metal finishers. Therefore, we have maintained this page on the NMFRC. Some of the links have been changed to link to the latest and most applicable documents. (Oct. 2007)

Please note that regulatory compliance expert Joelie Zak, of Scientific Control Labs is available to answer your TRI reporting questions, including questions concerning the recently lowered reporting thresholds on lead. Find out if your company now has to report by visiting her page and posing your question. [Ask the Expert, TRI] [Q & A Archive]

EPA has recently lowered the threshold for lead (Pb) that triggers reporting requirements under TRI. As a result, some metal finishers who were not previously required to submit annual TRI reports will now need to do so by July 1, 2002.

The purpose of this web page is:

  • to help metal finishers determine if the new TRI lead threshold applies to them
  • to explain how to comply with reporting requirements

Please note

With any new rule, there are grey areas and unanswered questions.  The new lead rule is no exception.  In some cases, EPA itself may not have decided how to interpret the rules.  The NMFRC will update this document to provide the best information available, and will post alerts when changes have been made.  Although we will not always be able to provide a definitive answer for every question that comes up, we can at least help the metal finishing industry deal with the questions consistently.  While we cannot demand it, we hope that EPA will use this page as a resource to be aware of the assumptions that are being made by a significant part of the metal finishing sector, and will provide timely guidance as appropriate.


What is TRI?

By Federal law, companies that use more than a certain minimum amount (the "threshold") of any of a long list of toxic chemicals are required to submit a Toxic Chemical Release Inventory (TRI) Form (also known as Form R). Every company in the country has the same filing deadline, July 1, covering the preceding calendar year. Forms are submitted directly to EPA, and to designated state agencies.

TRI reporting is a two-step process.

First, you need to determine whether you are required to submit a Form R. Your company is subject to reporting if it meets two criteria:

Then, for each listed chemical you use above threshold quantities, you will need to report on the Form R how much of the chemical you have "released", and where it went.   In the TRI definition, "releases" include not only emitting listed chemicals into the environment, but also sending materials containing listed chemicals off-site for recycling or disposal. You are also asked to report on chemicals that you recycle internally. The purpose is to provide a picture of how you manage your waste.

Note that there are two quantities that matter for each chemical.

  • The amount of each chemical that you "manufactured, processed, or otherwise used" determines whether you are required to file a report.
  • The amount of each chemical that you "released" is the amount that actually gets reported.

What is the new rule for lead?

The threshold for most toxic chemicals including lead and lead compounds was previously set at 25,000 pounds (for chemicals "manufactured" or "processed") or at 10,000 pounds (for chemicals "otherwise used"). Under the new lead rule, the threshold has been lowered to 100 pounds of lead or lead compounds for each use category. Chemicals other than lead and lead compounds are unaffected by the change. The lead rule is retroactive to January 1, 2001 and TRI reports starting in 2002 must reflect the lower lead threshold.

Note that when you compute threshold quantities, you should do calculations for each category ("manufactured", "processed", or "otherwise used") separately.

  • If the amount of lead or lead compounds you use in any single category, taken separately, equals or exceeds 100 pounds, then your facility meets the threshold requirement and must submit a report for lead.
  • If the amount of lead or lead compounds does not exceed 100 pounds for any single category, taken separately, you do not not have to submit a report for lead. 

There are a few exceptions to the 100 pound rule:

  • Lead that is incorporated in stainless steel, brass, and bronze alloys can still count, but only under the old 25,000 or 10,000 pound thresholds.
  • There is also a category called the "article exemption" that applies to articles that you purchase and use essentially as is, without changing its shape or design, and without releasing listed toxic chemicals from it.  Examples of articles are things like lead batteries.  But note that items like lead cathodes in anodizing, or lead anodes in chrome plating, may not qualify for the exemption, since they can release lead by slow dissolution.  If you release more than 0.5 pounds of lead from an electrode to the environment (for instance, in wastewater or sludge -- recycling doesnt count in this calculation) during the reporting year, the article exemption will not apply to it, and you will have to use the entire weight of the lead in the electrode in the threshold calculation.  (The 0.5 pound level occurs because EPA allows you to round off to whole numbers, and less than 0.5 pounds will round off to "zero".)

There is one other change in the rule for lead which may affect some previously calculated quantities.  In previous years, materials that contain a low concentration of lead (less than 0.1%) could be excluded by the so-called "de minimis" exemption.  With the new rule, the de minimis exemption no longer applies to lead in most cases.  If you use a material with a low lead content, and if you previously determined that you did not have to consider the material because the lead concentration was below 0.1%, you will have to include these quantities in your threshold and release and other waste management quantities. With very few exceptions, all sources of lead, even at very low concentrations, now count. 

Is the new rule applicable to my facility?

Typical sources of lead in metal finishing shops include (but are not limited to):

  • plating solutions
  • lead anodes and cathodes
  • lead (including impurities) in coatings and base metals
  • lead cooling coils

Metal finishing processes most likely affected by the new rule include:

  • Hard chrome plating (slow dissolution of anodes)
  • Decorative chrome plating (slow dissolution of anodes)
  • Lead and tin-lead plating solutions
  • Electrolytic pickling (slow dissolution of anodes)
  • Zinc plating (lead impurities in zinc anodes)
  • Leaded base metals (dissolution of parts)
  • Burnishing of zinc die castings
  • Polishing operations (from parts)
  • Wastewater treatment (formation of lead hydroxide)
  • Sulfuric acid and hardcoat anodizing (slow dissolution of lead cathodes)

Note that this list is not meant to be exhaustive.  For example, if your shop carries out metal joining operations that involve lead, such as soldering, you will need to consider them also.  You should review all of your operations carefully for any materials that might involve lead.

How to report

Getting yourself organized

If you are required to report, you should:

  • Designate someone at your facility to be responsible for TRI reporting.  That person should obtain reporting forms and instructions and should be aware of the reporting deadline: July 1 of each year
  • Develop a system for capturing the information you will need on an ongoing basis.  Dont wait until June 30 to start pulling it all together.  You will need to track reportable materials from the time they enter your facility until the time they leave.  You will have to be able to say how much goes where in order to report your releases.  You should also keep track of your source reduction and recycling activities, since there is a section on Form R to report these activities, and it provides an opportunity to put positive steps you have taken in the public record.
  • Maintain a well-organized record keeping system.  Form Rs and any supporting information must be retained for a period of three years after the due date of the report.  Supporting information should include any assumptions that you are making, and references for any background information that you have used.  You should document your thought processes clearly enough that you can explain them in the future if you are ever called upon to do so.  You may need to produce these records during inspections.  Your records will also help you maintain an accurate and consistent approach to estimating releases in future years.

Filling out Form R

The following information is required on Form R:

  • Name, location, and type of business
  • Off-site locations to which the facility transfers toxic chemicals in waste for recycling, energy recovery, treatment or disposal
  • Whether the chemical is manufactured (including importation), processed, or otherwise used and the general categories of use of the chemical
  • An estimate (in ranges) of the maximum amount of the toxic chemical present at the facility at any time during the preceding year
  • The quantity of the chemical released to each medium (air, land, and water) or transferred offsite during the reporting year
  • Waste treatment or disposal methods used, and the efficiency of each method for each waste stream
  • Source reduction and recycling activities
  • A certification by a responsible facility official that the report is complete and accurate

You can download the current Form R and instructions from EPAs web site.

What happens to data you submit?

The purpose of the TRI reporting requirement is to inform the public and government officials about routine releases of toxic chemicals to the environment.  It is also used to assist in the development of regulations, guidelines, and standards.

Reports are sent to EPA and designated state agencies.  EPA records the information from the reports in the TRI database.  The public, including communities living around facilities, researchers, and government officials, is able to access this database using the Internet and other means.  See the Background documents section for information on sites that allow access to TRI data.

Use the TRI State Tool to find state-specific TRI reporting requirements such as state rules, where to send your complete reports, how to obtain forms, and state and federal guidance resources.

TRI terminology for metal finishers
"Manufacture," "process," and "otherwise use"

When determining if this rule applies to your facility, it is important to understand the definitions of the three chemical use categories, "manufacture," "process," and "otherwise use".  Here is a short explanation of how the definitions might apply to metal finishing operations.  (You can find the legal definitions reprinted in the EPA guidance document for lead on page 1-7.)

  • Manufacture:  Your operations would fall under this category for lead if you produce, prepare, import, or compound lead or lead compounds.  You might think this would apply more to lead smelters or to lead anode manufacturers than to metal finishers.  But, in addition to compounds you are producing intentionally, it also applies to by-products and impurities.  For example, if you use lead anodes for hard chrome plating, you "manufacture" lead chromate on the surface of the anodes, according to the TRI definition.  You can find some sample calculations for "manufactured" lead compounds below.
  • Process:  Your operations would be said to "process" lead if you incorporate lead or lead compounds into a product, or if you make mixtures, repackage, or use lead or lead compounds as a feedstock, raw material, or starting material for making another chemical.  An example of processing in a metal finishing operation is tin-lead electroplating, where lead compounds are used as feedstock to formulate a plating bath.
  • Otherwise Use:  This is a catch-all category that applies to uses other than those covered by manufacturing or processing.  If you have lead, lead compounds, or lead alloys in your facility in any form, you will need to determine if this category applies to you.

"Toxic chemicals"

There are over 500 chemicals and chemical categories on the TRI toxic chemical list. The official list of TRI toxic chemicals is periodically revised. The latest list can be found EPAs web site.

The listed chemicals most often reported by metal finishing facilities include the following chemicals and their related compounds:


zinc compounds

*fume or dust only

hydrochloric acid*
nitric acid
phosphoric acid
sulfuric acid*

*aerosol form only

Other inorganics
ammonia compounds
ammonium nitrate

cyanide compounds

Solvents and other organics
certain glycol ethers
methyl ethyl ketone
methyl isobutyl ketone

xylene (mixed isomers)

Calculating "manufactured" lead compounds for threshold determinations1

Chromium electroplating

Lead is used for anodes with hexavalent chromium baths.  Lead chromate is "manufactured" during electroplating.  For each pound of lead anodes replaced, multiply by 1.56 to calculate the quantity of lead compound "manufactured".  As an example of how you can use this number, you can work backward from the reporting threshold of 100 pounds to see what that means in terms of the weight of lead anode that would put you over the threshold.  To produce 100 pounds of lead chromate, you would need to dissolve 100/1.56 = 64 pounds of lead.  So if you replaced more the 64 pounds worth of lead anode in 2001, you will need to file a report.

Zinc electroplating

Lead is an impurity in zinc anodes. Sulfide-based purifiers present in most cyanide plating baths cause the formation of lead sulfide. For each pound of lead in anodes, 1.155 lbs. of lead sulfide is "manufactured".

Cyanide cadmium

Lead is an impurity in cadmium anodes. For each pound of lead impurity, 1.25 lbs. of lead cyanide is "manufactured".

If the bath is periodically treated to remove lead, lead sulfide is formed. For each pound of lead in anodes, and additional 1.155 lbs. of lead compound (lead sulfide) is "manufactured".

Nickel plating

Lead is an impurity in nickel anodes. For each pound of lead impurity, 1.46 lbs. of lead sulfate is "manufactured".

If the bath is periodically treated (electrolytic) to remove lead, then for each pound of lead in anodes, and additional 1.0 lbs. of lead is "manufactured".

Cleaning, pickling, etching of lead-bearing base metals

These solutions will need to be analyzed to determine how much lead has been dissolved. The quantity of lead compound "manufactured" can be calculated from the analytical results as follows:

  • Alkaline cleaning forms lead hydroxide. Multiply lead concentration of bath by 1.16 to calculate the quantity of lead compound "manufactured". If the bath contains a chelating agent, you will need to get the correct factor from your chemical supplier.
  • Fluoboric acid pickling forms lead fluoborate. Multiply lead concentration of bath by 1.84 to calculate the quantity of lead compound "manufactured".
  • Nitric acid pickling forms lead nitrate. Multiply the lead concentration of bath by 1.6 to calculate the quantity of lead compound "manufactured".

Wastewater treatment

Wastewater treatment forms lead hydroxide. Multiply the lead concentration of raw wastewater by 1.16 to calculate the quantity of lead compound "manufactured".

Source publications for these calculations

  • Altmayer, Frank. "Advice and Council: The Form R Headache," Plating & Surface Finishing, December 2001
  • Altmayer, Frank. "Advice and Council:  Lead and TRI Reporting," Plating & Surface Finishing, January, 2002
  • American Electroplaters and Surface Finishers Society, AESF Regulatory Compliance Course: TRI Reporting for Lead. AESF, Orlando, 2001

Special information for anodizers

Sulfuric acid and hardcoat anodizing 

Lead cathodes are used by most anodizers. Very little lead is dissolved into the electrolyte, usually much less than the 100-pound threshold. However, if there is a "release" (e.g., wastewater and/or sludge), of the dissolved lead cathodes from your facility of more than 0.5 lbs. of lead in a year, then the entire weight of all cathodes must be considered when calculating the quantity of lead "otherwise used".

As an example of typical quantities, note that if your wastewater contains lead at .06 mg/l (60 parts per billion), and if you discharge one million gallons (3,790,000 liters) of wastewater during the year, the lead in your wastewater will total .06 x 3,790,000 = 227,400 mg = 0.5 pounds of lead.

Background documents

EPA TRI home page http://www.epa.gov/tri/

EPA TRI resources specifically dealing with the new lead rule:


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