EWG News and Analysis
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EWG News Roundup (Nov. 8): Factory Farms, Nontoxic Cleaning and GMOs
This week, EWG joined forces with our colleagues at Waterkeeper Alliance again to show how industrial animal farms can wreak havoc on public health and the environment. Through startling aerial imagery, the report documents a number of factory farms along North Carolina’s floodplain that were swamped by Hurricane Matthew, exposing local waterways to a deluge of animal waste from swine and poultry barns, and brimming manure pits.
EWG’s research and consumer advice were featured this week in several media reports, including tips on cleaning your home and washing dishes without toxic chemicals.
Here is some news you can use from this week:
Factory farms in North Carolina:
Loss of livestock hit farmers hard, but the spread of animal waste caused by the storm’s 15 inches of rain should be worrying for environmentalists and residents alike, according to a report published Friday by the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Environmental Working Group. According to the report, the flooding was “so massive it was visible from space.”
The groups found that flooding partially submerged 36 industrial farms, consisting of 141 barns, and 14 open-air pits containing millions of gallons of manure. Of the 141 barns, the groups learned, 102 housed chickens—each with as many as 20,000 birds.
An analysis of aerial photographs taken during October’s flooding discloses water submerging or partially submerging 26 large poultry farms in eight hard-hit counties in eastern North Carolina, the environmentalists said.
That means dry waste from big poultry farms located near open waters could have washed into streams and rivers unnoticed, said Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance staff.
Hurricane Matthew left behind in the state “more than 140 feces-strewn swine and poultry barns, more than a dozen open pits brimming with hog waste and thousands of acres of manure-saturated fields,” according to an analysis out today from the Environmental Working Group and the Waterkeeper Alliance.
"It's only a matter of time until the next storm inundates North Carolina's coast, swamping factory farms and churning up feces-laden waste into vital waterways, including those that are sources of drinking water for many North Carolinians," wrote Soren Rundquist, EWG's director of spatial analysis and lead author of the report.
Sonya Lunder, a senior researcher at Environmental Working Group says Toxic chemicals are everywhere, so exposure is really difficult to avoid. However, she further says that there are things we can proactively do to keep our houses safe and healthy.
Now let’s talk dirty dishes. Those dishwasher tabs are convenient, but not cheap. Also, some brand-name detergents get “F” ratings from environmental groups, like the Environmental Working Group.
“This is a transformational time,” says Scott Faber, an Environmental Working Group lobbyist who represents the “Just Label It” campaign in Washington. “Consumers have been voting with their forks.” Organic and non-GMO brands are growing, and there is a decline in the use of antibiotics in animals.
"We're talking baby wipes, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, hair gel," said attorney Tina Sigurdson with the Environmental Working Group. “There's no legal requirement that a company makes sure a product is safe before they sell it. FDA has no access to safety records. They have no legal power to get those." Reprinted six times.
Out of the 12 ingredients in the product, 10 are considered moderately to highly toxic by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database. The worst offenders are butane and isobutane, the first two listed ingredients, which can cause irritation to eyes, skin, or lungs and be toxic to organ systems. Canada bans their use in cosmetics.
[Kari] Gran, whose product line is free from the 1,300 chemicals barred from personal care products in Europe (as opposed to the mere 11 barred in the U.S.), finds the results encouraging. “The upside here is that consumers are much more educated than they used to be,” she says. “People are no longer buying in at face value. They are listening to their friends and reading blogs and labels.” She points to the Skin Deep ingredients database of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) as a particularly valuable reference.
The Environmental Working Group said the renewable fuel mandate "will make air pollution worse and push farmers to grow corn for fuel instead of food."