Industries (excluding metal mining) reported releasing 4.79 billion pounds of toxic chemicals in 2002, an increase of 5.0 percent from the prior year, according to the latest Toxics Release Inventory compiled by EPA.

By law, nearly 25,000 factories, refineries, mines, power plants and chemical manufacturers must report emissions of toxic chemicals to air, water and land to EPA.

Industries reported creating 26.2 billion pounds of production-related waste, which they partially treated or disposed, a decrease of 0.3 percent. Lead, copper and mercury releases increased.

Environmental groups said the new pollution data show the continued need for public health protections, and protested possible “reporting reduction options” for the TRI Program, being weighed by EPA.