Interview with Jacqueline Warren, long-time toxics attorney with EDF and NRDC

The Toxic Avengers

Jan 25 2022 • 1 hr 5 mins

For this episode, I spoke with Jacqueline Warren, who worked as an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) from 1973 to 1991. She was one of the leading toxics advocates in Washington DC when most of the major federal toxics laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, Superfund and the Toxic Substances Control Act, were enacted.

During her years at EDF and NRDC, Jackie was involved in the development, implementation and enforcement of laws related to drinking water, pesticides and toxic chemicals in products. She was a triple threat to the chemical industry, working to pass strong legislation, pressing EPA to adopt protective health standards, and litigating against EPA and the industry when they failed to follow the law.

Among her many accomplishments was a successful lawsuit overturning EPA’s attempt to exempt most uses of toxic PCBs from a ban enacted by Congress, and halting the use of several widely used pesticides that were dangerous to public health.

Our conversation traced the path which led to her starting a career in environmental law, looked at some of the key areas of her work, and discussed what it takes to win meaningful protections from toxic chemicals.

One technical note, there were some connectivity problems during our interview that had an occasional minor effect on the audio quality of the recording.

Here is a clip of Jackie testifying at a hearing on the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 1988, in which she discusses PCBs, asbestos, and the need for more toxicity testing of chemicals, and a more protective health standard in the law, starting at 21:53 on the recording.

You can read a recent story by Pro Publica on the ongoing health risks posed by PCBs here.

For ongoing issues with inadequate regulation of pesticides by the EPA, you can read an article by recent Toxic Avengers guest Sharon Lerner here.

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