About this project

Worker health and safety has been a core coverage area at the Center for Public Integrity for more than five years. It’s a topic that tends to escape media attention absent a mass disaster, such as the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion in 2010. Work-related disease is a particularly difficult subject to tackle because it consumes its victims one at a time over years or decades. In the vast majority of cases, their deaths are reported in newspaper obituary columns and nowhere else.

Part One: Toxic substances kill and sicken tens of thousands each year as regulation falters.
Part Two: The risks unborn children face from their parents’ exposures.
Part Three: The struggles that have plagued the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) since it opened its doors 44 years ago.

Unequal Risk” is the product of 18 months of reporting by the Center’s environment and labor team. The team’s managing editor, Jim Morris, has covered the issue since the late 1970s. This series, which will continue later in the year, represents an attempt to show, in comprehensive fashion, how shabbily workers in America are treated when it comes to protection against dangerous substances. By law, they are an underclass.

The third installment of this initial series – a historical look at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s flawed, 44-year war on toxics – was made possible largely through a fellowship Morris was awarded in 2013 by Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. The fellowship enabled Morris to collect documents from the National Archives and the Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon presidential libraries, and conduct lengthy interviews with key occupational health experts.

The people behind the project:

Managing editor and reporter: Jim Morris

Reporters: Jamie Smith Hopkins and Maryam Jameel

Series editors: Gordon Witkin and Jim Morris

Graphics: Yue Qiu

Digital editor: Jared Bennett

Multimedia editor: Eleanor Bell

Illustration: Emilie Udell

Fact-checking: Peter Smith