Community Action Works
Community Action Works

Public Data

Where can you turn for more information? Here are sources of data you can use in your environmental campaigns. On this page:


The EPA has a searchable dictionary of common Terms & Acronyms in environmental work.

Contaminants and Regulations

Information from the US Government about any regulated toxic chemicals, their legal limits, and the science behind it.

ATDSR ToxFAQs: Short toxicity profiles of many chemicals

ATDSR Toxicological Profiles: a more detailed and technical version of the ToxFAQs.

EPA Drinking Water Contamination Guidelines

EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) A-Z List of Contaminants with risk assessment tools like Reference Doses (RfD), Reference Concentrations (RfC), Cancer Slope Factors, and Unit Risk Factors for each contaminant if available. There is also a IRIS FAQ with definitions for each of those terms.

NOAA’s Screening Quick Reference Tables: Data about contamination levels in water and sediment that the NOAA considers ecologically harmful.


U.S. Energy Information Administration: Data on how much power is generated, and with how much of each kind of fuel, down to tonnage used by every individual power plant.

EPA Risk Assessment, Cleanup & Testing Methods

EPA’s Risk Assessment Home Page

EPA SW 846 Methods: Did they use the most current method to test your air, water, or soil? Find out here.

EPA’s CLU-In: One-page brochures showing the basic workings of common environmental cleanup methods.

Hazardous Waste in Your Home

Massachusetts DEP Hazardous Waste Brochures: Fact sheets about handling toxics substances in the home. (Note: Some regulations listed are specific to Massachusetts.)

Industry Profiles

EPA Sector Notebooks: Detailed analyses of the kinds and relative levels of pollution associated with different industries. Within each pdf, look for “Waste Release Profile” or “Chemical Release and Transfer Profile”

Industry Profiles from the United Kingdom Environment Agency also contain sector-by-sector information. Just remember that the laws governing industry are different in the U.S. and the U.K.

Info about Specific Polluted Sites Near You

EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory

EPA Superfund Facility Listings

Scorecard: The Pollution Information Site

Searchable databases of toxic releases or polluted sites. Note that most state environmental web sites will have their own database of sites not listed here.

Municipal Information

City Data: Easy to browse census information about cities and towns: population, income, property values, demographics.

Risk and Public Health Assessment

Environment & Health: A guide to the process of creating a profile of environment and health in your community by locating pollution sources and addressing health risks.

From Exposure to Illness: Community Health Studies and Environmental Contamination. An interactive web site to help people think about whether to do a health study, and alternatives.

CDC WONDER: Data about disease, cancer, and death rates in every county in the US.

ATSDR’s Public Health Assessment Guidance Manual

ATSDR’s Toxicology Curriculum for Communities Trainer’s Manual

Time-Lapse Satellite Views

In 2013 NASA released annual satellite photos from 1984-2012 of the whole planet. Google has created an interface you can use to animate the photos to see how any place on earth has changed over that 28-year period. Very useful for showing changes in land and water use, deforestation, and visible environmental impacts.

Uncertainty and Statistics

A Worrier’s Guide to Risk: A one-page check-list to help people make more sense of the seemingly unending series of stories on risk.

Explaining Risk to Non-Experts: A Communications Challenge