Texas Health and Environment Alliance, Inc. is thrilled to announce that our Executive Director, Jackie Young, has been selected as one of Houston Business Journal’s 40 under 40 Honorees for 2018. The program recognizes young pacesetters “who have proven themselves to be key industry leaders within their companies and in the community.”
If you haven’t heard of Jackie Young, you probably haven’t been paying close attention to the news. Jackie is the Founder and Executive Director of Texas Health and Environment Alliance, Inc. She created THEA because she recognized there was simply no other entity in our region that was adequately addressing the issues of toxic waste and water quality. She is fierce and relentless. She has gone up against companies worth tens of billions of dollars – and won. That’s why she is often called Houston’s Erin Brockovich. The source of her single-minded determination? She and her family suffered from the effects of toxic waste, firsthand.
When she was in her early 20s, she began experiencing seizures and lesions on her body. Her father developed multiple myeloma at the relatively young age of 51, a rare form of cancer. When they had their family’s well water tested, they found it was contaminated with heavy metals. Scientists and doctors told her their water was likely the source of their health issues. Soon, they discovered they lived near one of the worst toxic waste sites in the country, the San Jacinto River Waste Pits.
Since then, the former beauty queen and model has had extreme nervous system complications. Even though she’s only 31, her reproductive system has been compromised by endometriosis and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. She’s had three surgeries on her reproductive organs and will require a fourth soon. Her health issues sometimes leave her bedridden for days on end, but that doesn’t stop her from fighting for environmental justice.
Jackie put her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Geology to work fighting for a clean-up of the Waste Pits with a multidisciplinary approach that gets results. When she was sick, she literally continued working from bed, sending emails and text messages herself or by dictation. She commissioned scientific studies, attracted local and national media attention, and deployed a grassroots movement that the Environmental Protection Agency couldn’t ignore. In fact, on April 9th, the 3rd anniversary of THEA’s founding, the EPA announced a long-awaited $115 settlement agreement with the Responsible Parties to clean up the Waste Pits. The agreement avoids the potential for a protracted legal fight over removal of the waste.
Her personal story has been profiled by The Houston Chronicle, Texas Monthly and The Houston Press, among many other media outlets. Her story is compelling, her on-camera presence is captivating and her drive to make Houston and the surrounding areas a better place to live and work is unstoppable.
There will be an awards event on June 7 at Saint Arnold Brewing Company, and a special publication in the Houston Business Journal’s June 8 issue. This year’s 40 Under 40 has a fun nonprofit partner for their special publication and photoshoot: The Houston SPCA.
Join us in congratulating our fierce leader, Jackie Young.