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EWG News Roundup (2/22): Safe Levels of Exposure to PFAS Keep Getting Lower, Federal Agencies Seek Volunteers for PFAS Testing and Safer Sunscreens on the Way

In the News
Friday, February 22, 2019

This week EWG published a timeline that illustrates the scope of proposed regulatory limits for toxic fluorinated chemicals, also known as PFAS. The trend clearly shows that since 1991, the levels of PFAS that are deemed safe keep getting lower. Some research shows there is no safe level of exposure to these nonstick compounds. EWG researchers estimate these chemicals are found in the drinking water of about 110 million Americans – a continuing crisis that needs a serious plan to be resolved.

Also in PFAS news, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is seeking volunteers who live near current or former military installations to be tested for PFAS chemicals. EWG contends that though this proposed testing is encouraging, more exposure routes and geographic regions need to be considered during this process. PFAS chemicals are found every time a water system is tested. It’s crucial to learn who is contaminated and at what levels, and the extent of this toxic pollution.

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration released a proposal for new sunscreen regulatory guidelines – a huge step toward reining in a largely unregulated industry.

“After more than 40 years, the FDA is at last taking serious steps to finalize rules that would require sunscreen companies to make products that are both safe and effective,” said David Andrews, Ph.D., senior scientist at EWG. “For a decade, EWG has worked to raise concerns about sunscreens with oxybenzone, which is found in nearly all Americans, detected in breast milk and potentially causing endocrine disruption. Today the FDA recognized those concerns and said oxybenzone and 13 other ingredients are not classified as safe and effective for use.” 

Here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.

FDA New Rule on Sunscreens Ingredients

ABC News: FDA says mineral sunscreens are safe, chemical sunscreens need more research

The Environmental Working Group, an outspoken advocacy group that works to eliminate dangerous chemicals in products, says the rule is a "major win for public health," and pursues changes they've been pushing since they started looking at sunscreen 10 years ago. The group only recommends mineral sunscreens because they say chemicals used in sunscreen can be absorbed into the skin and disrupt hormones, or be inhaled when people use spray sunscreen.

NBC News: FDA tightens regulation of over-the-counter sunscreen products

Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit health and environmental advocacy group, called the proposal a “big step toward cleaning up a largely unregulated industry.” “We expect many companies to quickly reformulate to avoid those ingredients that the FDA considers unsafe or for which there is not enough data to prove safety,” said Scott Faber of EWG on a press call after FDA’s announcement.

CNN: FDA proposes new sunscreen regulations

Environmental advocates praised the proposal. “For a decade, EWG has worked to raise concerns about sunscreens with oxybenzone,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, an environmental advocacy nonprofit. “Today, the FDA recognized those concerns and said oxybenzone and 13 other ingredients are not classified as safe and effective for use.” Reprinted by 56 media outlets.

Reuters: U.S. FDA proposes new regulations for over-the-counter sunscreens

Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit health and environmental advocacy group, called the proposal a “big step toward cleaning up a largely unregulated industry”.  “We expect many companies to quickly reformulate to avoid those ingredients that the FDA considers unsafe or for which there is not enough data to prove safety,” Scott Faber of EWG said on a press call after FDA’s announcement.

HealthDay: FDA Aims to Strengthen Sunscreen Rules

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a watchdog organization for consumer health, called the new initiative way overdue. “After more than 40 years, the FDA is at last taking serious steps to finalize rules that would require sunscreen companies to make products that are both safe and effective,” David Andrews, senior scientist at EWG, said in a news release. Reprinted by UPIU.S. News & World Report and 101 other media outlets.

The Daily Mail: Only TWO of the 16 ingredients in sunscreen are definitely safe, FDA declares: Two other chemicals will be banned as the agency demands more research on the other 12

Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit health and environmental advocacy group, called the proposal a 'big step toward cleaning up a largely unregulated industry'. 

Cronkite News (Ariz. PBS): FDA vs. SPF: Feds say new look at sunscreen regulations long overdue

Calls seeking comment from industry groups on the proposed regulations were not immediately returned Thursday. But an official with the Environmental Working Group said the regulatory review is long overdue. “After more than 40 years, the FDA is at last taking serious steps to finalize rules that would require sunscreen companies to make products that are both safe and effective,” David Andrews, an EWG senior scientist, said in a statement.

Lifehacker: Sunscreens May Soon Become More Effective

“Today’s announcement will cause a sea change in how sunscreens are formulated,” Environmental Working Group senior scientist David Andrews said in a press call today.

Live Science: Sunscreen 'Sea Change' May Be Coming with New FDA Rules

"The FDA is at last taking serious steps to finalize rules that would require sunscreen companies to make products that are both safe and effective," David Andrews, a senior scientist at the nonprofit advocacy organization Environmental Working Group (EWG), said in a statement. The EWG, which focuses on environmental issues and public health, has previously raised concerns about the chemical oxybenzone.

MindBodyGreen: Bring On The Sunshine: The FDA Wants To Make Sunscreen Safer

This is the first time in decades that the FDA has attempted to update its sunscreen requirements. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a longtime advocate of stricter regulation for the industry, applauded the announcement on a press call this afternoon.

New York Post: FDA crackdown: Most sunscreens ‘bamboozle’ consumers

“This is going to completely overhaul the entire sunscreen market,” says David Andrews, the senior scientist at the watchdog organization Environmental Working Group, which releases a yearly guide of safe sunscreens and held a conference call about the news Thursday.

Outside Magazine: The FDA Wants to Make Sunscreen Safer, Finally

According to David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, the burden to prove whether active ingredients like oxybenzone are safe is on the industry, and, if it cannot do so, those will be disallowed from over-the-counter sale.

WebMD: FDA Proposes Major Changes to Sunscreen Rules

Still, Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at Environmental Working Group, said at a press briefing that the FDA’s announcement will “cause a sea change in how sunscreens are formulated.”

PFAS and CDC Assessment Near Military Bases

CNN: Health agencies to assess chemical exposure in 8 U.S. communities near military bases

According to the environmental advocacy group Environmental Working Group, more than 1,500 drinking water systems that serve nearly 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFAS chemicals. Drinking water can be effectively treated with activated carbon filtration to prevent contamination.

CAFOs

Environment California: Accidents waiting to happen

In North Carolina alone, there are 170 hog waste lagoons within 100-year floodplains, and 136 within a half-mile of a public water well, according to an Environmental Working Group/Waterkeeper Alliance analysis of satellite imagery.

Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database

Dr. Weil: Cosmetics And Early Puberty?

And you can learn how to avoid other chemicals in personal care products by following the Environmental Working Group’s guide to personal care products called SkinDeep.

EWG VERIFIED™

The Eco Hub: 5 Canadian Natural Cleaning Products For The Eco Conscious Home

Attitude, a Montreal based company,  whose products are developed in their in-house lab where they meet all of Ecologo’s standards are vegan and plant-based.  Their products are tested in an independent lab for the absence of cancer-causing chemicals like 1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide. They are also EWG verified.

EWG VERIFIED™ and Herbal Essences 

The Bridal Guide: 11 Gorgeous Wedding Hair Styles You Can DIY

Start by washing your hair with Herbal Essences Sulfate-Free Honey and Vitamin B Shampoo and Conditioner, a long lasting hairstyle starts with a solid foundation and this has just the right amount of hydration to keep hair shiny and healthy! Added bonus – the shampoo is verified by the Environmental Working Group [EWG] for its clean formula.

Farm Subsidy Database

High Country News: One family makes sense of losing its Colorado River water

Pinal has received more federal farm subsidies than any other Arizona county — $571 million from 1995 to 2017, according to a database kept by the Environmental Working Group. The Shedds were among them, gaining nearly $2 million from a program that pays farmers when cotton prices fall too low.

Food Additives

Well+Good: What to know about phosphates, the food additive that’s in (almost) everything you eat

But the Environmental Working Group lists sodium phosphate (a common type used in over 6,000 food products) as a “moderate concern” in foods, and there has been quite a bit of research linking it to potential health risks. Higher phosphate intake has been associated with increased risk of death for people with kidney disease.

GMO Labeling

Washington Examiner: Trump's new GMO food labels leave greens fuming

The Department of Agriculture is endorsing the “motto” of the American Farm Bureau and other farm industry groups that “the customer is always wrong,” said Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group, just one of several environmental groups that had tried to push the administration to endorse a plan for a broader, more transparent national labeling system that favors consumer awareness.

Washington Examiner: Daily on Energy, presented by GAIN: Green group tops 100 lawsuits against Trump

The Department of Agriculture is endorsing the “motto” of the American Farm Bureau and other farm industry groups that “the customer is always wrong,” said Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group, just one of several environmental groups that had tried to push the administration to endorse a plan for a broader, more transparent national labeling system that favors consumer awareness.

Indoor Air Pollution

MindBodyGreen: Who Needs A Purifier? IKEA's New Curtains Will Filter The Air For You

While the curtains of the future won't arrive in your big blue bag until 2020, you don't have to wait to clean up your home's air quality. According to the Environmental Working Group, the top chemicals of concern include VOCs, flame retardants, PVCs, PFCs, and antimicrobial agents like triclosan.

Monsanto’s Glyphosate
Mercola: 100 Percent of Oat Products Tested Positive for Glyphosate

The average level of glyphosate in cereal samples was 360 parts per billion (ppb), which FOE noted is more than twice the level set by Environmental Working Group (EWG) scientists for lifetime cancer risk in children. Some of the cereal samples contained residues as high as 931 ppb. 

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

Forbes: 5 Fake Foods And Food Scams You Need To Avoid

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group annually compiles a list of the dirtiest and cleanest foods in terms of pesticide use. Avoiding pesticides is a key reason many consumers buy organic, so it matters more on “dirty” foods and less on “clean ones.” 

Care2: Study Shows It’s Never too Late to Go Organic

But eating organic is so important—and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. The Environmental Working Group even releases their annual Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen list to push people towards eating organic when it really matters while saving money on less toxic conventional options.

Sugar

Well+Good: Great news: Pizza for breakfast is apparently healthier than cereal

It only takes a quick stroll down the colorful cereal aisle of your supermarket to realize most of those boxes don’t contain anything worthy of starting your day with. Most options are basically candy in disguise. In fact, according to the Environmental Working Group, many favorites—including Froot Loops and Cap’n Crunch—are made up of nearly 50 percent sugar (yikes). But I have good news for you: A better way to start your day can actually be—wait for it—with pizza. 

EWG's Guide to Sunscreens

TC Palm (Fla.): Florida bill would ban sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate, like Hawaii and Key West

Chemical sunscreens are by far more common on store shelves. Oxybenzone was found in two-thirds of the products surveyed in 2018 for the Environmental Working Group's annual sunscreen guide. But the number of mineral-based sunscreens had grown 41 percent since 2007, the guide also found. Reprinted by Naples Daily News

Texarkana Gazette (Texas): Out-of-control insulin prices; sunscreen damages coral reefs

Anytime you go to the beach or spend any time outside (remember you can get a bad burn on the slopes!) you should apply sunscreen that contains micronized zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. You want to avoid sunscreens with octocrylene and oxybenzone. The Environmental Working Group also advises against 4MBC, butylparaben and octinoxate.

PFAS in Drinking Water

Fair Warning: Warning Wire – A Slow Burn Over Burn Pits

The plan “perpetuates the agency’s record of foot-dragging,” the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group, said in a press release. It would not stop the use of PFAS chemicals in consumer products or prevent the introduction of new chemicals in the class, the group said. It also does not mandate cleanup of contaminated water supplies. 

New Jersey Spotlight: Chemours Shipped PFAS Substitute Chemical to South Jersey Site, EPA Says

“The public and possibly EPA are largely unaware of exactly where these chemicals are used, stored and potentially released to the environment,” said EWG’s senior scientist, David Andrews. “EPA should add PFAS to the Toxic Release Inventory and publish information on production and use locations for this entire family of troubling chemicals.” The inventory is the EPA’s public database on toxic chemicals. 

New Mexico Political Report: Groundwater contamination devastates a New Mexico dairy – and threatens public health

“This is a national contamination crisis at this point, and we’ve really only scratched the surface in understanding how large of an impact it’s having on health, both in highly contaminated communities like Clovis and across our entire population,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, which leads a campaign to regulate the compounds. Reprinted by The GuardianSanta Fe New MexicanDairy Business and El Semanario.

Santa Fe New Mexican: Toxic timeline: A brief history of PFAS

2012: The EPA directs large public water systems to test for PFAS. The results suggest that as many as 110 million Americans are exposed to PFAS in their drinking water, the Environmental Working Group finds.

Santa Fe New Mexican: Tips on avoiding PFAS

Up to 100 million additional people are exposed to water with lower levels of PFAS, which also poses a health risk, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit public health advocate that tracks the contamination nationwide.

Chemical Watch: EPA accused of dragging its feet with federal PFAS management plan

A number of organisations – such as the Environmental Working Group and Safer States – said they were optimistic that states are making PFASs a priority.

Water Quality News: PFAS Groundwater Contamination Threatens New Mexico Dairies

“This is a national contamination crisis at this point, and we’ve really only scratched the surface in understanding how large of an impact it’s having on health, both in highly contaminated communities like Clovis and across our entire population,” said David Andrews, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group.

ABC4: KTVX (Salt Lake City, Utah): Hazardous chemicals in drinking water around military bases

Scott Faber with the environmental working group says the EPA's plan lacks action and urgency. “This plan which is just a plan has no deadlines to clean up the mess we've already created,” said Faber.

NBC15: WTAP (Parkersburg, W.V.): Update: EPA sends violation notice to Chemours on GenX contamination

“I've spoken to other scientists who have concerns about how the values are calculated for GenX, because of the absence of human biomonitoring data, indicating how long GenX actually stays in the body,” says David Andrews of the Environmental Working Group. “It might actually be slightly more of a concern.”

 

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