Episode 13

Published on:

18th Apr 2023

Interview with Ted Smith, Founder of Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Part One

In this episode, we have Part One of my interview with Ted Smith, Founder and Executive Director of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.  

For more than forty years, Ted has worked to clean up the extensive pollution caused by manufacturers of semi-conductors in Silicon Valley, which contains the most Superfund sites in the country.  In the wake of discovery of contaminated drinking water aquifers, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition successfully passed local ordinances on hazardous materials, and public right to know, which became models for state and federal laws, including the Toxics Release Inventory.  

The Coalition partnered with Environmental Justice groups in the Southwest to address the environmental and health challenges posed by the spread of the semi-conductor industry into Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

Ted’s work, along with his wife, the renowned occupational health lawyer Amanda Hawes, has continued to expand to the international level, addressing the pollution and health harms to workers and communities across the globe. He co-founded the International Campaign for Responsible Technology and co-edited the book “Challenging the Chip: Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Electronics Industry.”

We began our conversation discussing the recently enacted federal legislation known as the CHIPs Act, which provides more than $50 billion dollars to promote the on-shoring of semiconductor production to the United States.  We discuss the absence of provisions in the law to ensure that new communities aren’t exposed to and harmed by pollution from the new semi-conductor plants in the U.S.

We then discuss the early part of Ted’s life, including his experiences at Wesleyan University, his time spent in Washington DC as a volunteer for the anti-poverty program Volunteers in Service to America or (VISTA). Ted describes his experiences after moving to California to attend law school at Stanford, and his work supporting cannery workers, which set the stage for his decades of toxics advocacy.

Ted Smith is both a pioneer and a giant in the anti-toxics movement. It was an honor to discuss his life and career, and I’m looking forward to sharing our conversation with you.

Here’s Part One of my interview with Ted Smith recorded last December.

$52 billion for chips, plus $200 billion for science research https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/27/us/politics/senate-chips-china.html?searchResultPosition=2

NYT re Taiwanese building in Phoenix  -- https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/06/technology/tsmc-chips-factory-phoenix.html?searchResultPosition=1

The court decision in a case Ted Smith brought on behalf of farmworkers early in his career.

Mandujano v. Basic Vegetables https://openjurist.org/541/f2d/832/mandujano-v-basic-vegetable-products-inc

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About the Podcast

The Toxic Avengers
Meet the people working to protect us from toxic chemicals.
We're constantly being exposed to toxic chemicals, in our food, our water, the products we buy, in our homes, at work, even in utero. Meet the Toxic Avengers: people working to stem the tide of toxic chemical pollution that can lead to cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities and other health impacts. Learn about Toxic Avengers' fights against the chemical industry to win strong federal and state protections; local campaigns to defend communities facing the greatest toxic exposures; and the power of consumers to make household products safer.

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Daniel Rosenberg