Brower Youth Awards

Shannon Lisa

Avenel, NJ

Investigating chemicals that lead to cancer

Shannon Lisa is a 21 year old from Avenel, New Jersey, and the Program Director of the non-profit organization, Edison Wetlands Association, that investigates the effects of chemical contaminant dumping in communities in Indiana and beyond. 

Through “environmental detective work,” Shannon is committed to protecting human health and the environment through the investigation of hazardous waste sites. Shannon became involved in the issue of harmful chemicals after growing up in the state with the greatest number of contaminated sites and seeing first-hand the devastating effects it has on communities. 

Shannon has led the charge for over two years to crack open a decades-old toxic cold case. In mid-2017, she learned about dozens of children getting sick with rare cancers in and around Franklin, Indiana. Local families long-believed their health was being affected by unhealthy levels of chemicals in the environment, and felt they could not get answers from the government agencies. Shannon and her organization filed extensive requests to the federal Environmental Protection Agency to secure as much information as possible on the history of environmental impacts in the community. After months of pouring through over 40,000 pages of previously hidden documents, she uncovered a bombshell. A nearby industrial site assured by the EPA to be cleaned up had been severely mismanaged and poorly investigated. A cocktail of poison gases, including the known carcinogen TCE, may have been invading what most people consider to be a safe place— their homes— for years. She coordinated with the community group, If It Was Your Child, and environmental technical team, Mundell & Associates, to conduct the first-ever scientific testing of residential indoor air. This research, and the discovery that some homes had detections of industrial toxins as much as 18x over the state threshold, led to the Environmental Protection Agency reopening a wide scale investigation. 

Shannon continues to work with the Franklin, Indiana, community as they get closer to achieving a new, permanent cleanup, and advocates for change on a national scale so that no family has to feel unsafe in their homes because of industry’s toxic assaults.