Stories

The IRE Resource Center is a major research library containing more than 27,000 investigative stories.

Most of our stories are not available for download but can be easily ordered by contacting the Resource Center directly at 573-882-3364 or rescntr@ire.org where a researcher can help you pinpoint what you need.

Search results for "Chemicals" ...

  • Hydrogen Energy: Pollution or Solution

    This is the result of a two-month investigation into a proposed, federally-funded "green-energy" power plant in the middle of California's Central Valley. This plant planned to gasify coal and use new technology to diminish the amount of CO2 released into the air. This would be done by using carbon sequestration in nearby oil fields, creating jobs and energy for the valley. However this report shows that while this power plant reduces CO2 emissions and creates dozens of temporary jobs, the additional environmental impacts are substantial. The plant plans to truck in coal dust past schools and neighborhoods, use millions of gallons of water a day in drought-stricken farming country, pollute the air with particulate pollution in the most polluted air region in the country, store hazardous chemicals near schools and homes, fill landfills at an alarming rate, AND at the end of it all the plant will produce at times NO electricity.
  • West Virginia Water Crisis

    On Jan. 9, 2014, a chemical tank at Freedom Industries leaked on the Elk River, just north of the drinking water intake that serves 300,000 people in Charleston, the West Virginia state capital, and surrounding communities. Residents and businesses were ordered not to drink, bathe in or cook with tap water, a warning that remained in place for up to a week. Stories examined the lack of environmental enforcement, inadequate information about the toxic chemicals involved, and poorly planned water quality sampling that was used to decide when the water was again safe to use.
  • The Dark Side of the Strawberry

    California strawberry growers are hooked on a dangerous class of pesticides and, along with chemical companies, have exploited loopholes in local regulations and global treaties to keep using these chemicals, increasing cancer risk in more than 100 California communities and further depleting the ozone layer in the process. The Center for Investigative Reporting, also published online by The Guardian U.S.
  • Toxic Legacy

    Employees of Technicoat, a metal coating company based in Fort Worth in the ‘70s and 80s, hired teenagers to dispose of industrial waste and harmful chemicals. None of the employees went through any kind of safety training or were given protective gear. Now many of the company’s former employees have either died from illnesses linked to chemical exposure or are currently battling illnesses that are likely related to being exposed to chemicals during their tenure at Technicoat. The story found that the city of Fort Worth and the Tarrant Regional Water District are still dealing with the environmental impact of the company’s illegal chemical dumping – sometimes down storm drains, in holes dug in the ground, or straight into the Trinity River – as the area that housed the Technicoat plant is being redeveloped. It also discovered that the company blatantly disregarded federal safety standards and was fined multiple times by different federal, state, and local agencies for environmental and safety violations.
  • Hazard in the Heartland

    Following a devastating fertilizer explosion in West, Texas, a WFAA investigation revealed widespread mishandling of ammonium nitrate, as well as failures in chemical disaster preparedness, prompting state officials to take action to encourage local officials to form federally-mandated safety committees designed to prevent future disasters.
  • As OSHA Emphasizes Safety, Long-Term Health Risks Fester

    For years, Sheri Farley worked in a cushion-making factory. Spray-gun in hand, she stood enveloped in a yellowish fog, breathing glue fumes that ate away at her nerve endings. “Dead foot” set in. She walked with a limp, then a cane, then she didn't walk much at all. “Part of the job,” was the shrugging response from her managers. This article was the first to reveal how the furniture industry used a dangerous chemical called nPB despite urgent warnings from the companies that manufactured it. The story also described egregious behavior by a small cushion-making company in North Carolina called Royale Comfort Seating, where Ms. Farley worked. The piece spotlighted the consequences of OSHA's failure to police long-term health risks and how efforts to control one chemical left workers exposed to something worse. Workplace illnesses like Ms. Farley's affect more than 200,000 Americans per year and cost our economy more than $250 billion annually. The agency responsible for ensuring that Americans can breathe clean air on the job focuses primarily on deadly accidents. But ten times as many people die from inhaling toxic substances at work.
  • Chemical Drift, the Second-Hand Smoke of Big Agriculture

    This series documented the dangers posed by agricultural chemicals which are applied both aerially and by land equipment. Some estimates show up to 90 percent of applied chemicals fail to hit the targeted site and drift hundreds of miles in the environment, contaminating people, water systems, air and animals. The series revealed that current safety standards were based on old theories of toxicology, which assume that the danger of chemical exposure is based on the dose. “The dose makes the poison” was the theory. That is not true with endocrine disrupting chemical pesticides that are non-monotonic, meaning that even at very low levels of exposure, significant damage can occur, especially if exposure is during childhood or fetal development. In “Pitchfork Rebels,” Howard wrote about organic farmers training to install environmental sampling devices known as Drift Catchers on their land. The resulting chemical analysis showed the presence of chlorpyrifos, an endocrine disrupting chemical insecticide linked to ADHD and autism, had drifted to their farms from an aerial application more than two miles away. The EPA banned all uses of chlorpyrifos in homes and daycare centers because of its toxicity for children, but it is still allowed in agricultural uses. This article documented the toxin’s drift to an organic farm where three young sisters live.
  • Playing With Fire

    For decades, manufacturers have packed the foam cushions inside sofas, loveseats and upholstered chairs in homes across America with toxic flame retardants. Companies did this even though research shows the chemicals – linked to cancer, developmental problems and impaired fertility – don’t slow fires and are migrating into the bodies of adults and children. That began to change in 2012 when the Chicago Tribune’s investigative series “Playing With Fire” exposed how the chemical and tobacco industries waged a deceptive, decades-long campaign to promote the use of flame retardant furniture and downplay the hazards. As a result of the series, historic reforms are underway, and flame retardants became one of the top public health issues of the year. The series sparked two U.S. Senate hearings and the Environmental Protection Agency began a broad investigation. Most importantly, California announced it would scrap the rule responsible for flame retardants’ presence in homes throughout the nation.
  • Injection Wells - The Hidden Risks of Pumping Waste Underground

    Over the last several decades, U.S. industries have dumped more than 30 trillion gallons of toxic waste – a volume roughly four times that of Utah’s Great Salt Lake -- into injection wells deep beneath the earth’s surface. These wells epitomize the notion of out of sight, out of mind, entombing chemicals too dangerous to discard in rivers or soil. The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for overseeing this invisible disposal system, setting standards that, above all, are supposed to safeguard sources of drinking water at a time when water has become increasingly precious. Abrahm Lustgarten’s series, “Injection Wells: the Hidden Risks of Pumping Waste Underground,” lays out in frightening detail just how far short regulators have fallen in carrying out that mission. His analysis of hundreds of thousands of inspection records showed that wells often fail mechanical integrity tests meant to ensure contaminants aren’t leaking into water supplies and that companies repeatedly violate basic rules for safe disposal. EPA efforts to strengthen regulation of underground injection have been stymied time and again by the oil and gas industry, among the primary users of disposal wells. As the number of wells for drilling waste has grown to more than 150,000 nationwide, regulators haven’t kept pace, leaving gaps that have led to catastrophic breakdowns. And Lustgarten’s most surprising finding was that the EPA has knowingly permitted the energy industry to pollute underground reservoirs, handing out more than 1,500 “exemptions” allowing companies to inject waste and other chemicals into drinking water aquifers.
  • Semper Fi: Always Faithful

    Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger was a devoted marine for nearly 25 years. As a drill instructor, he lived and breathed the Marine Corps and was responsible for training thousands of new recruits. When Jerry’s nine-year-old daughter Janey died of a rare type of leukemia, his world collapsed. As a grief-stricken father, he struggled for years to make sense of what happened. His search for answers led to the shocking discovery of one of the largest water contamination sites in US history. For thirty years, unbeknownst to the Marines living there, the Marine Corps improperly disposed of toxic cleaning solvents that contaminated the drinking water at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base. It is estimated that nearly one million Marines and their families may have been exposed to high levels of carcinogens through the water. 25 years after the wells were finally closed, only a fraction of former residents know about their exposure to the toxic chemicals. In the process of investigating the Camp Lejeune contamination, a larger issue comes into focus - the abysmal environmental record of the military. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Defense is the United States’ largest polluter, which raises grave questions about environmental conditions at other bases across the country. “Semper Fi: Always Faithful” is a timely and sobering story of the betrayal of US soldiers and is a call to action for more environmental oversight of military sites.