The migrants who clean up after US disasters like Colorado’s Marshall Fire are repeatedly exposed to toxins without training or protective equipment

Image credit: Alexis Kenyon

The growing devastation caused by climate change has also led to growth in the disaster recovery industry. A new investigative report from the Center for Public Integrity, Futuro Investigates and Columbia Journalism digs into the 150 billion dollar industry and the costs paid by laborers within it who are regularly exposed to toxins like lead, asbestos, and mold.

No federal or local governments or advocacy groups track how many workers get sick every year after prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals that are present in disaster recovery cleanup. The new report found the majority of workers surveyed were experiencing many of the symptoms that are tied to regular and prolonged exposure including chronic headaches, skin and eye irritation, and respiratory problems.

KGNU’s Alexis Kenyon spoke with Maria Inés Zamudio, an investigative reporter for the Center of Public Integrity. She says while business is booming for the companies on top, conditions for migrant laborers who show up after natural disasters have not improved in decades.


  • cover play_arrow

    05_08_24_Mariaines Alexis Kenyon

Alexis Kenyon

Alexis Kenyon

Alexis Kenyon is an experienced radio reporter with more than 15 years of experience creating compelling, sound-rich radio stories for news outlets across the country. Kenyon has master's degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism in radio broadcast and photojournalism. She has worked in KGNU's news department since 2021 as a reporter, editor, and daily news producer. In all her work, she strives to produce thought-provoking, trustworthy journalism that makes other people's stories feel personal. In addition to audio production, Kenyon runs KGNU's news internship program and oversees the department's digital engagement.

Now Playing

Recent Stories

Upcoming Events


This May 1st and 2nd, we’re encouraging you to give and to publicly express what KGNU personally means to you.

We join other public and local stations across the country for this second annual event. It’s your forum to support and champion how KGNU connects with your values.


Learn More