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 "toxic substances" ...

  • Failures in the Golden State

    The Department of Toxic Substances Control oversees or has some part in regulating everything from nail polish ingredients to oil refineries, radioactive waste to metal recycling in California. At the heart of our series is the story of a department that’s divided, dysfunctional, and ineffective in fulfilling its mission to protect public health and the environment of the Golden State. We sifted through hundreds of pages of reports, memos, reviews, manifests and legal claims. We also analyzed thousands of records in the department’s hazardous waste tracking system to find out that more than 40% of the hazardous waste manifests in the DTSC’s database contain inaccurate information or are missing key details. Our reporting has held leaders accountable at the DTSC and compelled state lawmakers to call for an investigation of the department, including a legislative hearing this month (January 2014). Through a series of public records requests, we found out some of the department’s top leaders were investing in companies the DTSC oversees. Our reporting into the potential financial conflicts of interest prompted an investigation into deputy director Odette Madriago by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). Ms. Madriago resigned from her position six weeks after our report aired. The FPPC investigation remains ongoing.
  • 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.
  • "Tainted Water"

    For more than 20 years, the harmful chemical perchlorate has seeped into San Bernardino County's groundwater. The seep is thought to have started at a local dump site; however, records about the site were lost in the late 1980s by "two state regulatory agencies." The problem wasn't reported again until 1997, but warnings were "dismissed" by the county. The site was "rediscovered" in 2001, but it wasn't until 2009 that the county got serious about stopping the chemical seep. It is estimated that the cleanup operation will be completed by 2013.
  • U.S. Slow on Clean-ups

    The Pentagon has resisted paying for clean-up of toxic substances from its former bases. Asbestos, perchlorate and trichloroethylene (TCE) have been deemed hazardous by the EPA and remain on lands previously owned by the Pentagon but that now house private families and schools. But the Pentagon has complained to the White House about EPA regulations and Bush appointees have responded by admonishing EPA officials, essentially creating separate and less stringent environmental standards for the military than for states, communities and private industry. Since 2001 clean-ups have slowed and an estimated 15 million acres of land remain contaminated with dumped munitions alone.
  • Toxic Chemicals Taint Barton Water

    At least half a million visitors swim in this a natural pool in Barton Springs, Texas. As these reporters reveal this water is contaminated with carcinogens including DDT and other benzene-based carcinogens. Apparently, the authorities knew about this since eight years but had not stopped people from swimming in the pool. After this series of investigations though the authorities ordered an investigation.
  • Stonewall

    This story addresses clause in Ohio's Bioterrorism Bill, which allows it to hide information gathered during public health investigations. The reporter discovered that hiding this information was more of a pattern than an exception. She found examples of the Department's efforts to bury information, stonewall citizens, and downplay health risks. For example...in one community, data was skewed to show no link between toxins in the soil and local leukemia cases. Not only does the Health Department hide this information, they make it nearly impossible to retrieve, by ignoring information requests...even the State Attorney General couldn't get answers to its health-related inquiry.
  • What Monsanto Knew

    The Nation investigates Monsanto's efforts to conceal the ongoing contamination in Anniston, Alabama, during the 60s and the 70s. The story reveals that the ecological system in the region has been damaged by contamination from polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB). "The neighborhood around the plant [of Monsanto] is populated with by people with cancer, young women with damaged ovaries, children who are learning-impaired and people whose ailments have been diagnosed as acute toxic syndrome," reports the Nation. The article cites Monsanto's internal memos showing that the company's management has been aware of the problem for decades.
  • Friendly Fallout

    KCBS-TV reports "about the nation's first nuclear reactor designed to serve the public. The sodium-cooled reactor was situated in the foothills north of Los Angeles and literally lit up the tiny communities of Santa Susana, Agoura and Moorpark. (In 1959) there was a devastating accident at the reactor site when 13 fuel rods melted down. But the accident was shrouded in secrecy... On this, the 50th anniversary of the nuclear meltdown...(KCBS-TV) uncovered evidence of unusually high cancer rates in surrounding communities and cancer clusters resulting in many deaths... We obtained results of toxic chemical testing which showed dangerous levels of nuclear and chemical contamination at the plant and evidence the contamination has spread outside the plant's boundaries...."
  • (Untitled)

    Smart Money investigates growing fears among homeowners of toxic substances in their houses including everything from toxic fiberglass insulation to smoke detectors with radioactive nuclear chips. The article describes the "purity movement" and how some homeowners are spending thousands of extra dollars to build houses free of what they perceive as toxic contamination. (August 1996)
  • (Untitled)

    Once a placid 18th-century backwater, Lake Erie was transformed in the 19th century into a great commercial highway. This Audubon article investigates how agriculture and industry left the lake clogged in the early part of the 20th century and now that the lake is finally clear again a burgeoning population of zebra mollusks threaten its ecological survival. (Sept. - Oct. 1996)