The spatial distribution of toxic chemical emissions: Implications for nonmetropolitan areas

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The United States has experienced considerable industrial decentralization to non‐metropolitan areas during the past thirty years. Whereas researchers have extensively documented the social and economic effects of this process, the environmental consequences of manufacturing activities in rural communities have received less attention. This paper utilizes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) to investigate the extent to which nonmetropolitan counties in the state of Indiana serve as locations for toxic chemical emissions from industrial sources. The results of this analysis suggest that particular rural counties experience elevated emissions of industrially produced toxic chemicals. In addition, when compared with urban‐based manufacturing firms, industrial establishments in the state’s nonmetropolitan areas tend to emit more toxic chemicals, both per manufacturing employee and per dollar of manufacturing earnings. If manufacturing employment is considered the compensation that communities receive in exchange for exposure to toxic chemical emissions, the residents of nonmetropolitan areas appear to be compensated at a lower rate than urban residents. However, uncertainty remains regarding the actual human health and environmental risks created by industrial activity in nonmetropolitan counties because of data inadequacies and complexities measuring individual exposure incidences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-41
Number of pages25
JournalSociety and Natural Resources
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Environmental equity
  • Industrial hazards
  • Risk
  • Rural industrialization
  • Rural pollution
  • Rurality
  • Toxic Release Inventory


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