Sharon Lerner

Head shot of Sharon Lerner
Sharon Lerner was an investigative reporter at The Intercept, where she covered health, science, and the environment since 2015. Her work shines a light on corporate malfeasance and lapses in government oversight. In particular, she has covered how failures of the environmental regulatory process affect ordinary Americans. She also reported extensively on the Covid-19 pandemic, revealing the profiteering of pharmaceutical companies as well as the lack of biosafety protections on U.S.-funded research.

Lerner’s first work for The Intercept, a three-part series about the chemical PFOA called “The Teflon Toxin,” was a finalist for a National Magazine Award and featured in the documentary “The Devil We Know.” She went on to cover PFAS, the class of chemicals to which PFOA belongs, in extraordinary depth in her ongoing series “Bad Chemistry. Lerner has helped reveal the disproportionate burden of pollution faced by the poor and people of color, including those living near facilities that emit carcinogens into the air and those impacted by chemicals in soil and water.

Lerner’s stories on interference with the EPA’s chemical approval process helped lead the House Energy and Commerce Committee to hold a hearing on the matter, and her work has also been cited in other congressional hearings. She was the first to write that firefighting foam used by the military contained PFAS and broke the story that GenX, DuPont’s replacement for PFOA, causes cancer. Her reporting helped lead the U.S. Air Force to discontinue the use of PFAS-containing firefighting foam, was cited in the Stockholm Convention’s decision to limit the international use of PFOA, and paved the way for a public reckoning over GenX water pollution in North Carolina. Her in-depth investigation of chlorpyrifos was the first to lay out how the Trump administration might reverse a long-awaited ban of the pesticide. And her reporting on National Institutes of Health-funded research on bat coronaviruses in Wuhan, China, has helped inform the discussion of the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lerner has received seven awards from the Society for Environmental Journalists and five from the Newswomen’s Club of New York, which named her journalist of the year in 2021. She has also received awards from the Park Center for Independent Media, the American Public Health Association, the Children’s Environmental Health Network, and the Women & Politics Institute, among other organizations.

Prior to joining The Intercept, Lerner worked for the Village Voice, the public radio show “The Infinite Mind,” and the New School, where she taught journalism. Her stories have also appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, The Nation, and the Washington Post. She is the author of “The War on Moms: On Life in a Family-Unfriendly Nation,” a book about the lack of public support for families in the U.S.

Lerner lives in Brooklyn, New York, and has an undergraduate degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in public health from Columbia University.