What's in your air, land and water? Visualizing environmental toxicants in your city, county and state

To access the VET application, go here: https://vet.lhei.org

Article

Modern life has many beautiful amenities and conveniences, from cars to cell phones to packaged food. However, the creation of these amenities, especially in their mass production, includes the development of highly toxic synthetic chemicals -- such as PFAS, PCBs and others -- which do not timely decompose in the environment. This mass production and industrial development consists in the processing and disposal of various natural chemicals that can also be toxic as they are disposed and accumulated in large quantities on lands, air and water.

Given that these chemicals are largely invisible, and their disposal is often out of sight, people are unaware of the accumulation of toxicants in the environment, and their impact on human, plant and animal life. Many diseases such as respiratory diseases and cancer are likely related to the various chemicals we release into the air, land and water. Nevertheless, it is difficult to know about the emission of these chemicals, their potential impacts on humans and the environment, and where such emissions are mostly prevalent.

To address some of these issues, we have developed the open-access, open-source Visualizer of Environmental Toxicants web application: https://vet.lhei.org

The Visualizer of Environmental Toxicants (VET) was developed to obtain information from the Toxic Releases Inventory (TRI)data of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and associated chemical information from the PubChem database of the National Library of Medicine, to map, organize and visualize information about releases of toxic chemicals into the air, land and water across the United States.

This tool was created to expand knowledge about environmental pollutants and enable the public, scientists and policymakers to learn about patterns of releases of toxic chemicals into the air, land and water over time, and how these releases may be affecting communities across the U.S.

Toxicity is a complex issue, and the hazards of a chemical are dependent on amount and concentration of the chemical, among other factors. This tool is thus for exploratory purposes only. To diagnose any particular disease on any a particular individual or community requires research and medical consultation. Further information and documentation about the variables used here are found under the TRI documentation and the PubChem website.

VET was conceptualized by Nic DePaula, who also guided the VET development project. The applications was developed by Evan de Jesus, Adwait Wadekar, Richard Moore, and Calvin Brooks as part of their Senior Capstone Project, during the Fall of 2020.