Best longreads 2020

Our top 5 long reads of 2020

In-depth reporting that you do not want to miss.

We've made it to the final week of 2020—a big accomplishment in a year that felt never-ending.

With the holidays here, you may have a little more time to relax. Wondering what to do with that time? We've got you covered.


Kick up your feet, grab a mug of your favorite hot drink and settle in to catch up on our top five long reads of the year. From the ocean floor to the forests of North Carolina to the blustery North, below are our top investigations and features.

1. Unplugged: Abandoned oil and gas wells leave the ocean floor spewing methane

Gulf of Mexico oil and gas drilling

The Gulf of Mexico is littered with tens of thousands of abandoned oil and gas wells, and toothless regulation leaves climate warming gas emissions unchecked.

2. How Europe’s wood pellet appetite worsens environmental racism in the US South

An expanding wood pellet market in the Southeast has fallen short of climate and job goals—instead bringing air pollution, noise and reduced biodiversity in majority Black communities.

3. ‘Them plants are killing us’: Inside a cross-border battle against cancer and pollution

Air pollution Sault Ste. Marie Ontario

Two communities — one in Canada, one in the U.S. — share both a border along the St. Marys River and a toxic legacy that has contributed to high rates of cancer. Now the towns are banding together to fight a ferrochrome plant.

4. Microplastics in farm soils: A growing concern

Researchers say that more microplastics pollution is getting into farm soil than oceans—and these tiny bits are showing up in our fruits, veggies, and bodies.

5. Exempt from inspection: States ignore lead-contaminated meat in food banks

Hunter-donated meat provides crucial protein to US food banks. But an EHN investigation found a lack of oversight that could result in potentially hundreds of thousands of lead-contaminated meals this year.

Banner photo: The Algoma steel plant after sunset, in Sault Ste., Marie, Ont., on Friday, Jan., 17, 2020. (Credit: Christopher Katsarov Luna/EHN)

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From our Newsroom

Opinion: Tackling toxics in food must be priority for new FDA commissioner

If confirmed by the Senate, Robert Califf needs to put the “F” back in “FDA” by using its regulatory power to ensure food safety.

Air pollution can alter our brains in ways that increase mental illness risk

Emerging research finds polluted air linked to mental health problems, leaving western Pennsylvania children and environmental justice communities at high risk.

Feeling anxious about climate change? Experts say you're not alone

Research shows more people are feeling anxious about the climate crisis and their numbers will only increase in the coming years. Experts are concerned it's taking a toll on mental health.

How contaminated water contributes to mental illness

New research indicates that childhood lead exposure impacts adult mental health. The toxic heavy metal is found across western Pennsylvania drinking water systems, leaving thousands of kids at risk.

Pollution’s mental toll: How air, water and climate pollution shape our mental health

For years Americans have been warned about the dangers of pollution and climate change but one effect is neglected: impacts to our brains.

How toxic wildfire smoke affects pregnant people

Scientists are investigating whether climate change-fueled megafires could be causing premature births and miscarriages in California.

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