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Articles by David Leffler

David Leffler is a contributing writer for Public Health Watch, a nonprofit investigative newsroom focused on threats to America's well-being. Leffler, based in Austin, is a long-form feature writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Texas Observer, and Texas Monthly. He wrote about politics and economic inequality before joining Public Health Watch to cover environmental justice and health inequities.

Featured Article

This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center. It is being co-published with Public Health Watch and the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

Hannah Molina was buckling her toddlers into their car seats for Wednesday night church when she noticed the faint chemical odor.

She felt a little lightheaded, but she didn’t think much about it.

The air is often stinky in Jacinto City, Texas, a small town 15 minutes east of downtown Houston that’s surrounded by oil refineries and petrochemical plants. Usually, the odors are fleeting. Enough to make Molina’s nose wrinkle, but not enough to trigger her asthma or keep the girls from playing outside.

That night — July 14, 2021 — turned out to be different.

By the time Molina got home at 9 p.m., a nauseating, garlic-like stench had settled over her neighborhood. When she opened her car door, she felt dizzy. She swallowed hard to avoid gagging.

Molina got the girls... Read more