EWG News and Analysis
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EWG News Roundup (5/18): Fluorinated Chemicals in Water, Children’s Health Tips, Farm Bill Fail and More
This week, EWG released a groundbreaking report detailing the expansion and risks of harmful algal blooms in drinking water sources nationwide. EWG found that in 2017 alone, there were 169 algal blooms in 40 states. The issue is especially prevalent in the Great Lake states, like southwestern Ohio, where a bloom in Lake Erie in 2014 left the water in Toledo undrinkable for days.
EWG also launched our new Children’s Health Initiative website, which aims to help parents and caregivers protect children from toxic chemicals, pesticides, air and water pollution, and other environmental hazards.
On Friday, the House farm bill failed to get enough votes to proceed to the Senate. In the days leading up to this crucial vote, EWG counted down the ways that this partisan farm bill was a disaster built on false pretenses. We also raised questions as to why this version of the farm bill put billionaires, tobacco growers and families abusing loopholes first in line for federal subsidies. And we questioned why, at the same time, the bill would have made it more difficult for hungry Americans to get the nutrition assistance they need.
Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt had another scandal-filled week. It kicked off Monday when Politico exposed that Pruitt’s top political aides, along with the White House, sought to suppress a forthcoming federal study that showed the risks of perfluorinated chemicals in drinking water are far greater than stated by the EPA’s own assessment. The federal researchers at the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry were preparing to recommend a safe exposure level that was nearly six times more stringent than the EPA’s.
Internal emails obtained by our colleagues at the Union of Concerned Scientists reveal that the EPA and the White House feared a “public relations nightmare” if the study results got out.
“Unlike Scott Pruitt’s Pollution Protection Agency, there is still one government agency clearly trying to safeguard the public from these dangerous chemicals,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Only Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration would consider reducing drinking water contamination for the American people to be a ‘nightmare.’”
In other Pruitt news, he appeared before the Senate on Wednesday, where he faced a tough line of questioning. He was pressed on the fluorinated chemicals study mentioned above. True to form, the following day, Pruitt announced plans to repeal major safety rules for chemical and fertilizer plants that were put in place by the Obama administration following a 2013 explosion at a Texas fertilizer plant that killed 15 people.
EWG also highlighted how many cities and states have begun embracing solar energy, despite federal roadblocks. And in the California state Legislature, lawmakers are moving to require lead-free drinking water in all child care centers.
For coverage on these developments and more, here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.
Toxic Algal Blooms
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) published newly collected data on Tuesday reporting nearly 300 large blooms since 2010. Last year alone, 169 were reported. While NOAA issues forecasts for harmful algal blooms in certain areas, the advocacy group called its report the first attempt to track the blooms on a nationwide scale.
The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization, used news reports and satellite imagery to track harmful algal blooms. The group found nearly 300 blooms recorded in lakes and rivers in 48 states since 2010. The report also found that the problem apparently is getting worse. Last year, 169 blooms were reported in 40 states, compared to three in 2010.
Toxic Algae Blooms Occurring More Often, May Be Caught in a Climate Change Feedback Loop. InsideClimate News has the report: "...Blooms of harmful algae in the nation's waters appear to be occurring much more frequently than in the past, increasing suspicions that the warming climate may be exacerbating the problem. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) published newly collected data on Tuesday reporting nearly 300 large blooms since 2010...."
This week, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) highlighted what it says is a growing problem of toxic algal blooms affecting the nation's water supply. These blooms are a soupy, green growth on waterways composed of cyanobacteria, which look like algae but are actually a different microorganism. Reprinted by Alternet.
Toxic algae blooms affecting the western basin of Lake Erie stem from farm runoff but their severity and frequency are likely exacerbated by climate change, scientists have warned. A report this week from the Environmental Working Group cataloged 300 large blooms nationwide since only 2010, and the real number is probably higher.
A report released Tuesday morning by the Environmental Working Group shows that toxic algal blooms have grown more frequent across the country in recent years. In 2010, only three were reported. In 2015, that number rose to 15. By 2016, 51 algal blooms were spotted in lakes across the United States. And in 2017, that number more than tripled to 169.
Imagine turning on your faucet for a glass of water only to find out that the water wasn’t suitable for drinking. This sounds like a scenario from the past or in some far off country and not on our doorsteps, but it is happening right here in America. A new report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows that there is a growing epidemic of toxic algal blooms that are polluting lakes and other waterways, and these are making our water unfit for human consumption.
Across the U.S., a growing epidemic of toxic algal blooms is polluting lakes and other waterways, according to a new report by the Environmental Working Group.
Meanwhile, a report released Tuesday by Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows that such blooms are becoming commonplace worldwide. While some natural causes cause the blooms, the group said this increase is “indisputably linked to pollution from farms.” This is because agricultural fertilizer and manure that finds its way into rivers and lakes feeds the harmful bacteria and allows it to flourish.
Federal PFAS Study
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is in the hot seat facing at least a dozen investigations, but will anything change? Weighing in David Andrews, Senior Scientist at the Environmental Working Group and Noah Bookbinder, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Dave Andrews, a senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group, said those conclusions line up with recent studies on the health effects of PFAS. “They are looking at very subtle effects like increased risk of obesity for children exposed in womb, lowered immune response, and childhood vaccines becoming not as effective,” Andrews said.
Ken Cook, the president of the Environmental Working Group, said in a news release that "only [EPA Administrator] Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration would consider reducing drinking water contamination for the American people to be a 'nightmare.'"
According to the Environmental Working Group, the proposed ATSDR levels are is based on weakened immune systems among exposed populations. The levels are not legally binding standards, but rather screening levels intended to help toxicologists understand the risk at hazardous waste sites.
But the federal advisory level is far too high to protect public health, according to advocates such as Environmental Working Group, a Washington nonprofit which says that even very low levels of PFCs can cause illnesses including some types of cancer, low birth weight, and immune system problems.
In Pennsylvania, two of the chemicals have been found at levels exceeding EPA guidelines near Warrington in Montgomery County, where the contamination of public and private water supplies has been blamed on the use of firefighting foams at several military bases. National data on PFC contamination were published in 2017 by Northeastern University and Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit that advocates for stronger regulation of PFCs.
"Only Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration would consider reducing drinking water contamination for the American people to be a 'nightmare,'" remarked Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.
Exposure to PFAS is a major public health concern. According to the Environmental Working Group, the chemicals have been linked to several types of cancer, thyroid disease weakened childhood immunity and other health problems. They contaminate drinking water systems serving 16 million Americans in 33 states, including military bases and chemical-manufacturing plants nationwide. Reprinted by Nation of Change.
The House Farm Bill
It could mean more exposure to toxic pesticides. The House farm bill draft contains a slate of measures that would roll back regulation of pesticides. As Environmental Working Group notes, it would allow the Environmental Protection Agency to approve new pesticides without having to consult with other government agencies, undermining the Endangered Species Act.
Now new analysis of federal data by the Environmental Working Group finds that nearly 18,000 individuals living in the nation’s 50 largest cities like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago received more than $63 million in farm subsidies in 2015 and 2016. With thousands of individuals receiving farm subsidies without living or working on farms, you would expect that Congress would jump at the idea of applying stricter work requirements to ensure that only farmers get farm subsidies.
More than 25 agricultural and environmental groups urged lawmakers on Monday to oppose the House farm bill because of its “inclusion of myriad anti-environmental provisions and attacks on conservation.” In a letter to a number of House lawmakers, groups like the Environmental Working Group and Union of Concerned Scientists said the bill is “plagued with ideological and special-interest giveaways and provisions that harm public health and the environment.”
For humans, the danger of chlorpyrifos alone was enough for the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Environmental Working Group to write a joint letter to Pruitt last summer saying his EPA was rejecting years of the agency's own science that said the pesticide's "risk to infant and children's health and development is unambiguous."
CEI aligned with conservative groups, such as Heritage Action, Taxpayers for Common Sense and the National Taxpayers Union, along with an eclectic mix of other organizations, including the National Black Farmers Association, Defenders of Wildlife and the Environmental Working Group, to bring down the farm bill.
From 1995 to 2014, the various subsidies and payouts for crop insurance — premium support and actual crop loss payouts — disaster relief and income-support programs have cost U.S. taxpayers more than $322 billion, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Another group of left-right critics will hold a press event Wednesday -- their second event in the past few weeks -- to voice their complaints that the farm bill "wastes billions in subsidies to millionaires and billionaires." This group includes the Heritage Foundation and Environmental Working Group, along with R Street Institute, National Taxpayers Union, Taxpayers for Common Sense and Citizens Against Government Waste. They are urging the House to "rein in waste in (the) farm bill."
Similarly, the Environmental Working Group has shown that in 2016 the top 1 percent of farm subsidy recipients got an average payout of $116,501. The median farmer received a more modest $2,479. Despite the huge amount of farm subsidies going to the wealthiest farmers, efforts at pruning back these payments have come to naught, thanks to some deft legislative logrolling that has converted many potential farm bill opponents into enthusiastic backers.
Environmental Working Group’s Senior Vice President Scott Faber says HR 2 allows farmers and several of their family members, even if they’re not specifically farming get payments.
There's something fundamentally wrong with a legislative process that delivers a farm bill so deeply flawed that groups as politically diverse as the ruby red Heritage Foundation and the ocean blue Environmental Working Group (EWG) join forces to publicly condemn it.
The Environmental Working Group wants crop insurance premium subsidies cut from 62 percent to 48 percent with a means test to restrict safety net benefits. Taxpayers for Common Sense says farmers should not get any safety net payments after their crop has been sold.
EPA and Scott Pruitt
Pruitt signed a significantly revised slate of rules from the Obama era on safety and risk management at 12,500 U.S. facilities, including chemical plants and refineries. A chemical manufacturing group welcomed the changes, while spokesman Alex Formuzis of the Environmental Working Group called them a “hollowing out” of the original safety upgrades.
EPA administrators are supposed to push for safeguards to protect workers and residents from deadly catastrophes, like the one we saw in 2013 when the West, Tex., fertilizer plant explosion killed 15 people,” said Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook in a statement. “But this is Scott Pruitt. There apparently is no favor he won’t do for the chemical industry. Repealing safety measures at industry’s behest is just all in a day’s work.”
Pruitt says the revised rules improve emergency planning and reduce regulation. Alex Formuzis of the Environmental Working Group calls it a “hollowing out” of the safety upgrades.
“Scott Pruitt’s record of misleading statements, half-truths and outright lies mean he should be put under oath every morning before breakfast, and certainly before he testifies in front of Congress,” said EWG President Ken Cook.
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)
For the people whose once-idyllic rural homes become the unwitting neighbors to hog CAFOs, their “American Dream” often gets turned into a nightmare. Alex Formuzis, senior vice president, communications and strategic campaigns for the Environmental Working Group (EWG), wrote of the reality of living near a CAFO.
All of Aunt Fannie’s products are free from dyes, phenols, formaldehyde, and petroleum propellants and they have been given an “A” rating from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non partisan group that’s mission is to protect humans and the environment, meaning the products are a low concern for asthma and other respiratory issues, skin allergies and irritation, cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and the environment.
Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database
Environmental toxins in makeup, skin care, and hair products all can get into the skin and cause significant problems with hormones. "These are called estrogen disruptors, and they have been associated with early menopause as well as Premature Ovarian failure," says Pick. "The Environmental Working Group has a list of safe products that do not cause estrogen disruption."
Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database: https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/top-tips-for-safer-products/
Choose your beauty products carefully. Fortunately there are many great products available that are free from toxic chemicals and safe enough to be edible; you can find these by reading reviews on TreeHugger, shopping at local farmers' markets for handmade products, or visiting EWG's Skin Deep database to measure and compare specific items. You only get one body. Defend it fiercely.
American Spectator: It pays to farm, especially if there’s a natural disaster on the horizon.
And subsidies they are — despite being intended as a safety net, these “insurance” programs consistently pay out far more than they take in. A study by the Environmental Working Group found that, between 2000 and 2014, farmers received an average of $2.20 in subsidies for every dollar they paid in premiums. There was not a single year over this time period where farmers didn’t receive, on average, more in subsidies than they paid in.
Methylene Chloride Ban
"This is some welcome news out of an EPA that, under Administrator Pruitt's leadership, is usually bending over backward to appease the chemical industry," said Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney for EWG. "But we will save the applause for EPA until methylene chloride is actually banned, and can no longer put people at risk of serious injury or even death."
Nonstick Chemicals in Water
Reports of contaminated water at military bases nationwide is raising concerns about the safety of service members and their families. David Andrews of the Environmental Working Group says, "It really opens up the question of to what levels has the DOD taken to address these contaminated waters?"
EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™
Both studies’ definition of higher and lower pesticide foods mirrors the Dirty Dozen™ and Clean Fifteen™ lists published in the Environmental Working Group’s annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. The EWG guide is based on laboratory tests done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Testing Program and the Food and Drug Administration. The USDA found 230 different pesticides in more than 38,000 produce samples.
Many of us have come to depend on the Shopper’s Guide from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization that publishes “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” lists, which rank fruits and vegetables based on pesticide residues. In its current guide, strawberries, spinach, nectarines, and apples top the “Dirty” list, while avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, and cabbage rank as the “Cleanest.”
Non-organic produce is dirty owing to the pesticides (hence, the Environmental Working Group’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list). Soy is not clean because of the overblown issues linked to soy.
Case in point: The menu states, “Our organic produce is guided by the dirty dozen list”—meaning they are only buying organic products for the 12 worst pesticide offenders, according to Environmental Working Group.
Strawberries -- These sweet little morsels contain 85 mg per serving, compared to the 70 mg in an orange. But make sure you buy them organic! The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just named conventionally-grown strawberries as the most pesticide-laden produce item around.
EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens
“Sunscreens commonly include ingredients that act as penetration enhancers and help the product adhere to the skin,” says David Andrews, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group in D.C. “As a result, many sunscreen chemicals are absorbed into the body and can be measured in blood, breast milk, and urine samples.”
MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen. We discovered this natural sunscreen that’s great for dry skin from a rave review on Amazon: “This is the best by far — not only a facial sunscreen but also moisturizer for under makeup.” It also received the highest score possible from the Environmental Working Group, meaning it’s ingredients are nontoxic.
But just to be sure on the health benefits, we cross-referenced everything with consumer watchdog org the Environmental Working Group to get its ratings on the toxicity of products where available—lower ratings equal less toxicity, and the best rating you can get is a 1.
Hawaiian Ban on Oxybenzone
Hawaii has just become the first state to legally ban the sale of all sunscreens containing oxybenzone or octinoxate in a bid to stem the damage the chemicals are thought to have on bleaching coral reefs and ocean life. Meanwhile, research carried out by the Environmental Working Group has raised questions over the potential risks of oxybenzone as a hormone disruptor.
To 1.4 million residents of and 9.3 million annual visitors to Hawaii find themselves in a bit of a conundrum: They are in one of the highest UV states in the nation, but their best protection from it could harm their hormones and homes. 'That is really getting to the heart of a very tricky issue,' says Environmental Working Group (EWG) senior analyst Sonya Lunder. Reprinted by Express.
And when in doubt, Foley recommends to opt for products that include physical blockers, like zinc oxide, especially because it’s safe and effective for both UVA and UVB. For those traveling to Hawaii (lucky!), or just outside the house, the Environmental Working Group has named the below sunscreens as reef-safe. And safe sunscreen doesn’t have to cost an arm and leg, there are a few cost-conscious options below, too.
David Andrews, Ph.D. and a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, says that in the water off the beaches of Hawaii, where tourists flock and sunscreen flows, the coral reefs are unable to recover from bleaching events, which are like a hit to the reefs' ecosystem.
National Tap Water Database
Arsenic: One of the scariest common contaminants in our water supply is arsenic. Arsenic is a carcinogen, and is found in nature — but that doesn’t make it good for us. The Environmental Working Group tested tap water from all 50 states and found arsenic in the drinking water of all 50.
The chemical shows up in low levels in drinking water all over the United States, affecting more than 200 million Americans, according to pollution watchdog Environmental Working Group.