Sharon Lerner


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Sharon Lerner covers health and the environment. She joined ProPublica in 2022 after seven years as an investigative reporter at The Intercept, where she focused on failures of the environmental regulatory process as well as biosafety and pandemic profiteering.

Lerner has reported extensively on PFAS — a family of chemicals linked to cancer, infertility, developmental harm and immune dysfunction — detailing how manufacturers of the chemicals covered up the danger for decades. She also broke the news that firefighting foam used by the military contained PFAS and that GenX, a PFAS compound that DuPont created to replace the cancer-causing compound PFOA, also causes cancer. With colleagues at The Intercept, Lerner obtained grant materials that revealed that the U.S. had funded risky virus research in Wuhan, China.

Lerner’s work has been honored by the Society of Environmental Journalists ten times, and by the Newswomen’s Club of New York, which named her its journalist of the year in 2021.

How 3M Executives Convinced a Scientist the Forever Chemicals She Found in Human Blood Were Safe

Decades ago, Kris Hansen showed 3M that its PFAS chemicals were in people’s bodies. Her bosses halted her work. As the EPA now forces the removal of the chemicals from drinking water, she wrestles with the secrets that 3M kept from her and the world.

EPA Proposes Ban on Pesticide Widely Used on Fruits and Vegetables

The ban on acephate comes a week after a ProPublica investigation highlighted the EPA’s controversial finding that the bug killer doesn’t harm the developing brains of children.

10 Times as Much of This Toxic Pesticide Could End Up on Your Tomatoes and Celery Under a New EPA Proposal

Against the guidance of scientific advisory panels, the EPA is relying on industry-backed tests to relax regulations on acephate, which has been linked to neurodevelopmental disorders. “It’s exactly what we recommended against,” one panelist said.

EPA Approved a Fuel Ingredient Even Though It Could Cause Cancer in Virtually Every Person Exposed Over a Lifetime

An EPA document shows that a new Chevron fuel ingredient has a lifetime cancer risk more than 1 million times higher than what the agency usually finds acceptable — even greater than another Chevron fuel’s sky-high risk disclosed earlier this year.

The U.S. Banned Farmers From Using a Brain-Harming Pesticide on Food. Why Has It Slowed a Global Ban?

Chlorpyrifos is so harmful that America banned its use on food. But a top EPA official made it clear that the U.S. was not ready to support similar protections for the rest of the world under a treaty that restricts pollutants that travel the globe.

The EPA Faces Questions About Its Approval of a Plastic-Based Fuel With an Astronomical Cancer Risk

A senator questioned the EPA chief and a group sued the agency after ProPublica and the Guardian revealed that the EPA gave a Chevron refinery approval to make a fuel that could leave people nearby with a 1-in-4 lifetime risk of cancer.

The Company Testing Air in East Palestine Homes Was Hired by Norfolk Southern. Experts Say That Testing Isn’t Enough.

“It’s almost like if you want to find nothing, you run in and run out,” says one expert.

This “Climate-Friendly” Fuel Comes With an Astronomical Cancer Risk

Almost half of products cleared so far under the new federal biofuels program are not in fact biofuels — and the EPA acknowledges that the plastic-based ones may present an “unreasonable risk” to human health or the environment.

As Workers Battle Cancer, The Government Admits Its Limit for a Deadly Chemical Is Too High

The U.S. agency that is supposed to safeguard worker health has all but given up on setting limits to protect them from dangerous chemicals. Meanwhile, workers are dying.

Why the U.S. Is Losing the Fight to Ban Toxic Chemicals

From a powerful chemical industry that helped write the toxic substances law to an underfunded EPA lacking in resolve, the flaws in the American chemical regulatory apparatus run deep.

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