Lesley Pacey’s activism began in 2004 when her daughter Sarah was diagnosed with cancer at age 4 – and she noticed that several other children on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay also had leukemia. She demanded a study from the Alabama Department of Health that eventually confirmed a childhood cancer cluster, but which ended abruptly. She then launched a nonprofit agency aimed at assessing the true scope of rare cancers in her community and the environmental causes. Her efforts led to the film “The Cells of Baldwin County,” as well as an article in the Lancet Oncology journal. Through the years, she uncovered multiple environmental issues facing her community from carcinogens in the drinking water to toxic releases from Superfund sites and industries in neighboring Mobile County.
In recent years, she has focused her attention on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, helping chemically exposed workers, residents and tourists with chronic health issues seek justice in the mass tort related to the disaster. In that capacity, she works with whistleblowers, writes Freedom of Information Act requests, works with scientists and activists and digs through discovery documents. She also is an associate producer of “The Cost of Silence” film, a 2020 Sundance selection by director Mark Manning, that will be released later this year. The film shines a light on the human health aftermath of the oil spill. Lesley also serves as Outreach Coordinator for The ALERT Project founded by marine toxicologist Dr. Riki Ott. In this capacity, she works with the Government Accountability Project to educate lawmakers and propose measures that will better protect coastal communities from toxic chemical dispersants.