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
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
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
- 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 doesn't 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. Don't 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 EPA's
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
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
- 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
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 EPA's
The listed chemicals most often reported by metal finishing facilities
include the following chemicals and their related compounds:
*fume or dust only
*aerosol form only
Solvents and other
certain glycol ethers
methyl ethyl ketone
methyl isobutyl ketone
xylene (mixed isomers)
Calculating "manufactured" lead
compounds for threshold determinations1
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.
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".
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".
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
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 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
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.
EPA TRI home page http://www.epa.gov/tri/
EPA TRI resources specifically dealing with the new lead rule:
EPA has published an extensive Question and Answer guide (EPCRA
Section 313 Questions and Answers, December 1998), with detailed
references on many TRI questions. Note that it was published
before the new lead rule appeared, so some of the information in
it has been superceded. However, it remains a valuable source
for interpretations. It is available for download at
EPA has developed a new software tool, TRI-ME,
to help facilities in determining and completing their TRI obligations.
TRI-ME guides you through the TRI reporting experience. http://www.epa.gov/triinter/report/trime/index.htm
You can find the data on 1,296 facilities (230 of which have reported lead) with SIC code 3471 that have reported TRI data through 2005 by entering the appropriate information in the query form at http://www.epa.gov/enviro/html/tris/tris_query.html
There are many other websites that provide access to TRI data.
- Some are sponsored by public health organizations, and are typically
organized around specific chemicals. An example is the TOXNET
Toxicology Data Network maintained by the National Library of Medicine. Their
TRI search page can be accessed at http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/htmlgen?TRI
- Some are sponsored by public interest groups, and typically feature
geographically based searches so that citizens can access information
from manufacturers located near them. An example is the Right-to-Know
Network (RTKNet), at http://www.rtknet.org/ Another
is a site maintained by Environmental Defense (formerly the Environmental
Defense Fund, or EDF), at http://www.scorecard.org/general/tri/tri_gen.html.
Hannapel, Jeff, "TRI Reporting Threshold
Lowered for Lead and Lead Compounds, Plating & Surface Finishing,