Pollutant release and transfer register

Pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTRs) are systems to collect and disseminate information on environmental releases and transfers of toxic chemicals from industrial and other facilities.

They were established in several countries after the 1984 Bhopal Disaster, and the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, which affirmed the "right-to-know" of communities and workers about toxics chemicals and other substances of concern.

PRTRs and Community Right to Know

In many countries industrial facilities need a permit to operate processes that are causing environmental pressures. Authorities have to balance the interests of different actors when issuing such permits and will reflect this balance in the conditions and requirements put down in the permit. Companies and civilians living near to the facilities generally have quite different levels of understanding and information on the processes and the environmental impact. In a democratic context however a level playing field for all actors involved in permitting decisions is paramount to acceptance of the decisions. Against this background, the Aarhus Convention requires the parties to this convention to set up PRTRs as a tool to provide the general public this type of information UNECE (2003) Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers.

PRTR data quality

PRTRs are a type of emission inventories, typically containing data on emissions to the environment from individual industrial facilities. Data collection methods for individual facility emission data in PRTRs typically consist of questionnaires, sent to individual facilities or industries. The answers are validated upon receipt by the competent authorities and published on a public web site. This procedure for the case of EPER includes the following steps[1]

In accordance with the ideas of Community right to Know, this procedure ensures that data are published as soon as they are available. Despite the validation by competent authorities, the data remain essentially the facilities' estimates and data quality control essentially depends on data users asking questions. Since facilities are by definitions only a part of all activities in a country, the sum of the emissions reported in a PRTR should for each pollutant be less or equal to the total emissions reported in national inventories. This nis not always the case (see the EPER Review Report).


PRTRs include those of


  1. European Union (2006)
  2. EPER Review Report 2004


Further reading

National PRTR websites:

Regional PRTR websites

PRTR Resources

Non-Governmental Organizations

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