EWG News and Analysis
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EWG’s News Roundup (9/22): Trump Nominee Imperils Chemical Safety, CPSC Moves to Ban Flame Retardants
Media reports this week showed the unique risk President Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention would pose if confirmed by the Senate.
The nominee, Michael Dourson, conducted industry-funded assessments of the cancer-causing chemical 1,4-dioxane, which taints water and personal care products nationwide. He has argued that safety standards for many toxic chemicals used in commerce today should be hundreds, or even thousands, of times weaker than what independent scientists and the EPA consider to be safe for humans.
The New York Times, USA Today, the Associated Press and NBC News published reports on Tuesday documenting Dourson’s long career working for the industry to downplay health effects of certain chemicals.
“If Mike Dourson is confirmed, the environmental health of every child in the country will be tossed aside,” EWG President Ken Cook told USA Today.
But in a major step forward for children’s environmental health, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced it is moving toward banning the most hazardous flame retardants from use in children’s products, mattresses, residential furniture and the cases of electronics.
A new EWG report shows that roughly one-third of California’s high-risk kids have not been tested for lead poisoning. The analysis comes as Gov. Jerry Brown considers signing EWG-sponsored legislation that would largely fix this failure that has resulted in a lack of testing for at least 160,000 kids who were likely exposed to the potent neurotoxin.
“Far too many kids are harmed by lead and, for decades, the state has fallen woefully short of its responsibility to identify, test, and if needed, treat them,” said Susan Little, EWG senior advocate for government affairs in California. “Fortunately, this public health debacle could be turned around if Governor Brown signs this legislation into law, and if his department steps up and strengthens lead testing requirements.”
Gearing up for the 2018 Farm Bill, EWG laid out our agenda for what the Department of Agriculture’s conservation program should look like to better protect our land, drinking water and public health.
And finally, we applauded the growing wave of transparency in the marketplace, had some fun comparing two popular cosmetics subscription boxes for ingredient toxicity, and took a deep dive into arsenic in drinking water.
For coverage on these stories and more, here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.
California lead testing bill
A third of young California children at risk for lead poisoning are not being tested despite state and federal laws that require it, according to a new study—a problem at least partly addressed by legislation now on the governor’s desk. “Our most vulnerable kids, the ones that are the most lead-poisoned, are not getting tested,” said Susan Little, who led the study for the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that crossed the state’s testing reports with census figures. “The state is failing its mandate.”
Only about two-thirds of California children most at risk for lead poisoning are tested for it, but San Diego is doing somewhat better than most counties, testing 84 percent of high-risk kids, according to a report released Tuesday by the Environmental Working Group.
An EWG investigation found that in 2013, the latest year for which detailed records are available, an estimated one-third of high-risk 1- and 2-year-olds were not tested.
Bipartisan reform of the nation’s broken chemical safety law was hailed last year as a chance to rebuild consumer confidence in many of the chemicals used in everyday products. But that perception could be jeopardized by President Donald Trump’s nominee to oversee implementation of the new version of the Toxic Substances Control Act: Michael Dourson. Scott Faber is the senior vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group.
Dourson concluded that the safe level for exposure was 1,000 times higher than the EPA’s recommendation, advocates from the Environmental Working Group pointed out in a recent report. 1,4-Dioxane is among the first 10 chemicals that the EPA have made a priority for risk assessments, as required under the 2016 chemical safety law.
“If Mike Dourson is confirmed, the environmental health of every child in the country will be tossed aside,” Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a research and policy organization that pushes for tougher environmental protections. Dourson “will almost certainly continue his work from inside EPA to greenwash chemicals and pesticides to protect the profits of the companies that make them.” Reprinted by 60 media outlets.
According to an Environmental Working Group analysis, water tests from local utilities across the country show that more than 7 million Americans, living in 27 states, are served by water systems with levels of 1,4-dioxane that could at least marginally increase their cancer risk.
Outside groups are ramping up what’s expected to be an intense push against the nomination of Michael Dourson to head up EPA’s chemicals office (and the lead role in implementing the revamped Toxic Substances Control Act). Clean Air Moms Action is out with an ad hitting him for being a “toxicologist-for-hire for corporate clients” who minimized the dangers of second-hand smoke and dangerous chemicals. The Environmental Defense Fund and Environmental Working Group are holding their own press call today to draw attention to Dourson’s past work.
While the U.S. EPA recommended level for the chemical, which is used as an industrial solvent, is 0.35 ppb, the Environmental Working Group has found water supplies across the country to be at risk.
Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)
Nowhere are the impacts more profound than in Duplin County, where Miller and about 2.3 million hogs live – more than anywhere else in the state, according to the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization. A recent analysis of county and satellite data by the EWG found that roughly 160,000 North Carolinians live within a half-mile of a pig or poultry farm; in Duplin, nearly 12,500 people, more than 20% of its residents, live within that range.
California cleaning products bill
The press release notes that the bill is co-sponsored by non-governmental organizations Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Environmental Working Group, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Women’s Voices for the Earth, as well as manufacturers of cleaning products, including Honest Company, Seventh Generation, Procter & Gamble, SC Johnson, RB - Reckitt Benckiser, Unilever, Eco Lab WD-40, fragrance maker Givaudan, and the Consumer Specialty Products Association. Reprinted by Environmental Law News.
How about no foundation? Wait, don’t throttle me because you’re frazzled and sleep-deprived. Before you go shopping, check the toxicity of the products you’ve been using with EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. If you cannot find a specific brand or product, then do an ingredient search instead and learn what you might want to avoid, such as: parabens, phthalates, BHA, synthetic colours and fragrances.
You may use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database to check the ingredients in your personal care products. There’s also an app for that.
The ingredients list—which includes some familiar all-natural ingredients like coconut oil, arrowroot, and baking soda—also displays the Environmental Working Group (EWG) ratings for each ingredient, which are all in the 0-1 (or, low) risk group.
2018 Farm Bill
The Environmental Working Group is calling on lawmakers to put more teeth into farm bill conservation programs, arguing that if the taxpayer is funding them, the government must make sure the money is well spent. In a set of farm bill priorities released today, the group argues the bill’s voluntary conservation programs are not solving the many environmental problems created by intensive farming.
Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in ProduceTM
Certain foods are dirtier than others in terms of the pesticides they contain. However, foods that were grown without pesticides may still be contaminated by animal feces and bacteria from the soil and irrigation. That being said, here are the 12 foods that are most likely to contain the highest amounts of pesticide residue, according to The Environmental Working Group.
EWG prides itself in providing research and information to allow people to lead healthier lives. Every year, the nonprofit releases a list called 'Dirty Dozen,' which includes a ranking of produce with the most pesticides.
The first is that conventional strawberries are heavily treated with pesticides. They’re culprit number one on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list – a ranking of produce that contains pesticide residue – and because they’re so delicate, people don’t always wash them as well as they should.
Is the Environmental Working Group’s list of pesticide-tainted fruits and vegetables something to worry about? It depends on who you ask.
Most of the county’s water systems are within the legal limits for contaminants. The one exception is Big Basin State Park, which has dangerously high levels of cancer-causing contaminants called total trihalomethanes, or TTHMs, in its drinking water, according to the Washington nonprofit Environmental Working Group’s tap water database, a searchable public website.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently reported that chloroform, the compound most recognizable for knocking people out in the movies, is a common contaminant in the drinking water of 220 million Americans around the country. It gets there as a byproduct of chlorination.
The Los Alamos Municipal Water System has 4.45 parts per billion of hexavalent chromium in its water, according to data collected by New Mexico and the EPA, and published in a database by the Environmental Working Group, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that has advocated for stricter drinking water standards. Reprinted by The Taos News.
At least 194 drinking water supplies in New Jersey have been contaminated with arsenic at concentrations above the level scientists say increases the risk of cancer, according to a report recently published by the Environmental Working Group.