Journal of Risk and Uncertainty

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 57–76

Assessing the Accuracy of Self-Reported Data: an Evaluation of the Toxics Release Inventory


DOI: 10.1007/s10797-006-6666-3

Cite this article as:
Marchi, S.. & Hamilton, J.T. J Risk Uncertainty (2006) 32: 57. doi:10.1007/s10797-006-6666-3


Self-reported regulatory data are hard to verify. This article compares air emissions reported by plants in the Toxics Release Inventory with chemical concentration levels measured by EPA pollution monitors. We find that the large drops in air emissions reported by firms in the TRI are not always matched by similar reductions in measured concentrations from EPA monitors. When the first digits of the monitored chemical concentrations follow a monotonically decreasing distribution, we expect (via Benford's Law) a similar distribution of first digits for the TRI data. For lead and nitric acid the self-reported data do not follow the expected first digit pattern. This suggests that for these two heavily regulated chemicals plants are not reporting accurate estimates of their air emissions.


Toxics release inventory Benford's law Reporting accuracy Information provision 

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceDuke UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Terry Sanford Institute of Public PolicyDuke UniversityDurham

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