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EWG News Roundup (8/10): Asbestos Still Legal, Court Rejects Rollback of Chlorpyrifos Ban and More

In the News
Friday, August 10, 2018

Americans were reminded this week that asbestos is still legal in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency’s public comment period for its proposed Significant New Use Rule for asbestos closed today. The new rule would require manufacturers to get the agency’s sign-off to use asbestos.

In other big EPA news, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the agency’s controversial 2017 decision to roll back a scheduled ban of chlorpyrifos, the harmful pesticide linked to brain damage in children. 

“Today’s court decision is a huge victory for public health, especially that of children,” said Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney at EWG. “By requiring the EPA to finally ban chlorpyrifos, the Ninth Circuit is ensuring that the agency puts children’s health, strong science and the letter of the law above corporate interests.”

EWG also touted a recent study by the Environmental Defense Fund that highlights child care centers that may expose young children to lead in drinking water. To date, only seven states require lead testing for these facilities. Right now there’s an EWG-supported bill going through the California state legislature that would make it the eighth.

Finally, over on our children’s health site, we took a look at the slime-making craze and raised some health flags that parents should be aware of if their children ask to make this concoction.

For coverage on these developments and more, here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.

Asbestos and the EPA

ABC News: EPA rule doesn't go far enough to ban asbestos, activists say

A campaign by the Environmental Working Group says that between 12,000 and 15,000 Americans die from asbestos-related illnesses every year. Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group, said the EPA is not considering the impact of exposure to asbestos from old buildings or health effects other than cancer in its analysis under the toxic chemicals law passed in 2016.

CBS News: EPA official pushes back on criticism of asbestos proposal

Now the substance is one of 10 being reviewed by the EPA that could allowed in more products. Groups such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) are concerned that the EPA is actually moving to weaken protections and possibly make consumers less safe.  "It's really cooking the books on the level of risk that EPA is able to identify," said EWG attorney Melanie Benesh. She says the EPA won't be taking a comprehensive review and evaluating the risks of asbestos in some places like home, work and school environments. CBS Evening News Video.

CBS News: Critics outraged over EPA's proposal on asbestos

According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, the EPA also announced it will not review exposures from abandoned uses of asbestos. Documents the EPA released in June indicate that the agency will "dramatically scale back its safety evaluations for 10 chemicals under the revamped Toxic Substances Control Act," says the Environmental Working Group.

CNN: EPA says it's strengthening asbestos regulation, not gutting it

The Environmental Working Group, which supports a full ban on asbestos, said the agency is not performing a strong enough assessment of the chemical's hazards. “We're very concerned that EPA is taking a lot of shortcuts in that risk evaluation,” said Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney who works on toxic chemical issues at EWG.

FOX News: Trump-backed Balderson claims win in Ohio race too close to call; Jim Brown takes stand for flag

The FOX News Rundown podcast: The Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposal that will create opportunities for "new uses" of asbestos, sparking health concerns. Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney for Environmental Working Group, discusses the impact the new framework may have and whether health concerns are warranted. Fox News Rundown Podcast (8/8)

PBS Newshour: This EPA rule may expand asbestos use, and there’s one more day to give feedback

“The EPA has received criticism, including from us, with regards to the way it is proposing to conduct this risk assessment of asbestos,” said Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group.

AXIOS: EPA under fire for new asbestos proposal

Critics have lambasted the move, announced in June, saying the EPA failed to realize the dangers of the fibrous mineral. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group said the agency would "green light" the chemical industry to “continue business as usual, and by signaling that even the most dangerous chemicals are unlikely to be restricted or banned.”

Popular Science: The EPA’s latest news on asbestos has a lot of people nervous

Congress enacted the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976 to "comprehensively regulate chemicals and toxic substances that we come into contact with in the everyday," starting with asbestos, says Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group. "Because it's one of the toxic substances that everyone has heard of and knows is bad, it's become a poster child for this law and why it is broken."

Quartz: The US never banned asbestos. Now Trump may assist its comeback

The exact death toll from asbestos remains unknown, but Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that advocates on environmental health issues,  estimates that between 12,000 and 15,000 people in the US die each year from exposure. A recent study looking at global impact estimates that 255,000 people die each year from asbestos exposure around the world, of which 90% are workers.

Quartz: One Russian company seems thrilled with Trump’s move on asbestos

Environmental Working Group surfaced the post and provided a translation from the Russian.

VOX: Donald Trump has a weird soft spot for asbestos

According to the Environmental Working Group, the translation reads:

Donald is on our side! … He supported the head of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, who stated that his agency would no longer deal with negative effects potentially derived from products containing asbestos. Donald Trump supported a specialist and called asbestos “100% safe after application.”

Asbestos in Crayons

ABC News: Crayons bought at discount store test positive for asbestos, group says

In 2015, four unidentified brands of crayons were found to contain asbestos in tests by the Environmental Working Group.  Other children’s products have recently been found to include asbestos, including makeup kits.

The Atlantic: A Tough-to-Detect Danger in Shopping for Your Kids Online

This sort of testing and detection of toxic chemicals is nothing new. Last year, the U.S. PIRG found lead in fidget spinners, and in 2015, the Environmental Working Group found trace amounts of asbestos in crayons.

People Magazine: Asbestos Found in Some Playskool Crayons, Consumer Group Claims

According to Melanie Benesh, the Legislative Attorney for the Environmental Working Group, it is “very unlikely” that manufacturers “are actually intentionally adding asbestos to their crayons. More likely, there is another ingredient that they use that grows or is mined in places where asbestos also tends to be found and it contaminates the product.”

The Washington Post: Playskool crayons found to contain asbestos, advocacy group says

The findings come three years after a report from the Environmental Working Group Action Fund found that four brands of crayons manufactured in China contained toxic asbestos fibers. Amazon, Toys R Us, Party City and Dollar Tree stopped selling the crayons as a result. (The affected brands were Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce Crayons; Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Crayons; Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Crayons; and Amscan Crayons.) Reprinted by 80 media outlets.

Chlorpyrifos Court Decision

HuffPost: Court Orders EPA To Ban Chlorpyrifos, A Pesticide Linked To Brain Damage In Kids

In a joint letter to Pruitt in June, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group, said they were “deeply alarmed” by his decision.  “EPA has no basis to allow continued use of chlorpyrifos, and its insistence in doing so puts all children at risk,” they wrote. Reprinted by AOL and Yahoo! News.

Washington Examiner: Federal appeals court orders EPA to ban pesticide

“Today’s court decision is huge victory for public health, especially that of children,” said Melanie Benesh, an attorney for the group Environmental Working Group. “By requiring the EPA to finally ban chlorpyrifos, the Ninth Circuit is ensuring that the agency puts children’s health, strong science and the letter of the law above corporate interests.” 

EPA and TSCA Chemicals

Inside EPA: EPA New Chemical Approval Signals 'Reckless' TSCA Process, EDF Charges (subscription)

Melanie Benesh of the Environmental Working Group tells Inside EPA that the agency's description of reasonably foreseen conditions of use in the new approval document is consistent with the Trump administration's past statements. But she agreed with Denison that EPA appears to be narrowly focusing on uses described in a manufacturers' PMN.

Bug Repellents

Dr. Axe: 6 DEET Dangers + Safer Science-Backed Swaps

Environmental Working Group identifies DEET (in concentrations less than 30 percent) as one of its top picks to reduce the risk of life-altering disease from tick and mosquito bites with low toxicity concerns. But the organization stresses that precaution and proper application is essential. It also IDs science-backed DEET-free options.   

Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database

Brit+Co.: Sorry to Break It to You, but Your Toothpaste Could Be Giving You Canker Sores

As for why SLS causes canker sores, researchers believe that it irritates the soft and sensitive tissue inside your mouth and gums, removing protectant layers and making them more susceptible to canker sores. And SLS is also considered to be a “moderate hazard” according to Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database, which provides consumers with information about the ingredients and any possible risks for personal care products.

EWG VERIFIED™

Insider’s Guide to Spas:

The founders of Planted In Beauty have diverted their journey toward wellness. Lynne Florio and Renee Tavoularis launched a skincare line that comes from the best of nature, but you should know that they care about more than your skin. I find the Cleansing Emulsion to be one of the gentlest cleansers I have ever used. The brand is vegan, up to Ecocert standards, and EWG Verified.

Farm Subsidies and Crop Insurance

The Advocate-Messenger: ‘We need fundamental reform’: Soybean tariffs may have wide-reaching ag impacts; assistance programs may not offer enough help

What does the future look like for farmers dealing with the fallout of the tariffs? “Honestly, you’re asking me a question I know almost nothing about, in terms of trade and what President Trump is trying to accomplish,” says Craig Cox with Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization based in D.C. that tracks farmer payments. Cox is senior VP for agriculture and natural resources.

Johnson & Johnson Transparency Initiative

Chemical Watch: J&J begins revealing fragrance ingredients in babycare products

Environmental Working Group president, Ken Cook, said the industry giant’s move is "raising the bar for other companies to disclose chemical ingredients on labels and online, especially for products marketed for babies and children."

Cosmetics Design: J&J Advances Fragrance Transparency

J&J boasts having the support of the EWG environmental advocacy group, describing the new fragrance disclosure initiative as “such a noteworthy and industry-leading pledge that the Environmental Working Group has taken note.” 

JNJ.com: Johnson's® Baby Unveils a Groundbreaking 100% Ingredient Transparency Disclosure For Its Products

It's such a noteworthy and industry-leading pledge that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has taken note: “We applaud Johnson & Johnson’s move to greater transparency in the personal care product market,” said EWG President Ken Cook. 

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

Men’s Health: 9 foods you think are healthy but actually aren’t

Whether used as a garnish for your Bloody Mary or unwillingly included in salads, this is one leafy green you have permission to cut out. Not only is it comparatively lacking in vitamins, but the Environmental Working Group rated it higher than almost all other veg for pesticide residue. Unless you like the taste – and who does? – stick it in the bin.

Sunscreens

Allure: Why the Hell Don’t the Love Island Contestants Ever Wear Sunscreen?

If you want to couple up with some of the best sunscreens of 2018 on your own private Love Island, check out the Environmental Working Group's most recent list of best sunscreens. In case you're wondering if you should go for a higher SPF, here are the reasons you definitely should, and this is how to treat a sunburn if you forget to put it on. Reprinted by Daily Magazine and  Yahoo! News.

Hawaii Business Magazine: The Business of Saving the Reef

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group, which releases a yearly review of hundreds of sunscreens, has seen a rise in the availability of mineral sunscreens that don’t contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, or any chemical sunscreen ingredient at all. They rely instead on the FDA-approved ingredients zinc oxide or titanium oxide. In 2007, only 17 percent of the products the EWG reviewed were mineral based; this year, it’s up to 41 percent.

Superbugs Report and Label Decoder

Mother Jones: Your Chicken’s Salmonella Problem Is Worse Than You Think
If knowing that US supermarket chicken quite often carries salmonella isn’t chilling enough, consider this: In a recent analysis of Food and Drug Administration data, the Environmental Working Group found that “over the last five years of available data, on average, 1 in 5 strains of salmonella found on grocery store chicken were resistant to amoxicillin, a type of penicillin.” In short, it’s getting harder for doctors to treat infections from this common pathogen. Reprinted by Before It’s News.

1,4-Dioxane in Tap Water

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Something in the water? Questions linger about water quality for 50,000 in Beaver

When Dr. Olga Naidenko — a water expert for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group — first saw Beaver Falls’ 2013 and 2014 test results, she was concerned. “Beaver Falls has a harmful dioxane problem,” she said.

Chemical Watch: US EPA sticking to contaminants position for 1,4-dioxane

This was rejected by NGO the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in the public consultation on the scope. “Evaluating 1,4-dioxane formation as part of the risk evaluation for each ethoxylated chemical separately — each of which could be years or decades apart — would give EPA a disjointed and incomplete picture of the real problem,” it said. Its inclusion is needed to properly account for aggregate exposures in individuals exposed to multiple sources of the substance, the EWG said.

PFAS in Tap Water

Southern Colorado NPR: KRCC: Residents, Local Officials Call On EPA To Do More To Address PFAS Contamination

PFAS contamination is a growing concern among public health and water management professionals nationwide, with at least 40 states experiencing some form of contamination, according. The EPA says it has identified the issue as a high priority, and is in the process of developing new rules to regulate contamination levels in drinking water. 

Radium in Tap Water

Bob Vila: 13 Places in America with the Dirtiest Tap Water

According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, more than 170 million Americans are exposed to radium in their tap water—22 million of them in Texas alone. In Brady, radium levels in the tap water are nine times higher than the legal limit. 

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