Exposing Toxic Chemicals in Drinking Water, Food, Toys – and People

A Timeline of EWG-Commissioned Laboratory Tests

2024 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019-2000


January 2024

EWG’s 2024 guide to countertop water filters

EWG tested 10 countertop pitcher filters to see how effectively they reduced concentrations of common contaminants from taps at homes across the U.S. The contaminants include arsenic, disinfection byproducts, hexavalent chromium, nitrate, the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS, and radon. – . Researchers identified which filters performed better overall on tackling multiple contaminants and those that may be best for specific situations.

REPORT: EWG’s 2024 guide to countertop water filters


September 2023

Volatile organic compounds emitted by conventional and “green” cleaning products in the U.S. market

Frequent use of cleaning products and exposure to the volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that they can emit has been associated with the development of chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, in adults.

Children’s health is also vulnerable to the impacts of cleaning products’ VOCs, with studies indicating that exposure during pregnancy and infancy is also linked to poor respiratory health, like wheezing and asthma.

Awareness is increasing about the importance of clean indoor air not only to protect lung health, but also for overall healthy living. We spend two thirds of our lives inside, where emissions can be several times higher than outside.

EWG science’s team were interested in identifying and quantifying the amount of indoor emissions, in the form of VOCs, from everyday consumer products, starting with cleaning products. We tested 30 products covering different product types and categories like all-purpose, bathroom, stain removers, and floor cleaners, as well as air fresheners. The products were grouped as either conventional, green, or green and fragrance-free.

We found a wide range of numbers and concentrations of VOCs across cleaning products. The good news is that there was a low VOC option available for every cleaning product category. Green products had on average lower VOCs, especially green products without fragrances.

Our research shines a spotlight on how the cleaning products that we bring into our homes can affect respiratory health. The results also show the need for government regulations and industry stewardship standards on hazardous VOC emissions from consumer products, and more transparency about VOCs in products.

Note: EWG bought the products tested in the study between December 2019 and May 2022. The test results reflect the product formulations at the time of  purchase. The products currently available on the market may not be the same formulations as the products tested. Some products tested may have been discontinued, or are no longer manufactured.

A September 2023 EWG review of products tested indicates that four products are no longer available on company websites, including Febreze One, Bamboo; Attitude Sensitive Skin Natural All-Purpose Cleaner with Colloidal Oatmeal; Babyganics Floor Cleaning Concentrate, Fragrance-Free; and Martha Stewart Premium Wood and Floor Cleaner.

PRESS RELEASE: Cleaning products emit hundreds of hazardous chemicals, new study finds


July 2023

‘Forever chemicals’ found in water coast to coast builds case for strict EPA limits

In a follow up to the 2020 testing, laboratory tests commissioned by EWG found toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS in the drinking water of more U.S. cities and metropolitan areas. The results support earlier EWG estimates that hundreds of millions of Americans are exposed to PFAS from contaminated tap water.

REPORT: ‘Forever chemicals’ found in water coast to coast builds case for strict EPA limits

PRESS RELEASE: Detections of 'forever chemicals' in water coast to coast strengthen call for stringent EPA regulations


July 2023

Getting ‘forever chemicals’ out of drinking water: EWG’s guide to PFAS water filters

EWG tested 10 countertop pitcher filters to see how effectively they reduced PFAS concentrations from a real home tap contaminated by forever chemicals. Researchers found several brands were able to reduce PFAS by 100 percent or close to it after filtering 10 gallons of contaminated tap water. All filters reduced PFAS concentrations by some amount.

REPORT: Getting ‘forever chemicals’ out of drinking water: EWG’s guide to PFAS water filters

PRESS RELEASE: EWG tests find four water filters that effectively remove ‘forever chemicals’ from home taps


January 2023

EWG investigation: Dangerous agricultural chemical chlormequat found in popular oat-based products

An independent laboratory commissioned by the EWG tested 14 samples of cereals, granola and other oat-based foods from several well-known brands. The tests revealed detectable levels of chlormequat, which has been shown in animal studies to cause a range of reproductive and other health issues in all but one of the non-organic products.

REPORT: EWG investigation: Dangerous agricultural chemical chlormequat found in popular oat-based products


November 2022

Quibble with Kibbles: ‘Forever chemicals’ in pet food packaging add to perils at home

EWG commissioned an independent laboratory to screen for the presence of PFAS in the packaging of ten popular dog and cat kibbles. The results showed fluorine, a good indicator of the likely presence of PFAS, but they didn’t show which PFAS were present. Two dog food and two cat food bags with the highest concentrations of total fluorine were confirmed to have concentrations of individual PFAS. Brands tested included Blue Buffalo, Iams, Kibbles ‘n Bits, Pedigree, Meow Mix, Purina and Rachael Ray Nutrish.

REPORT: Quibble with Kibbles: ‘Forever chemicals’ in pet food packaging add to perils at home

PRESS RELEASE: New tests find toxic “forever chemicals” in pet food bags and baby textiles


November 2022

New baby textile product tests show concerning levels of toxic ‘forever chemicals’

EWG commissioned an independent laboratory to screen for the presence of PFAS in 34 baby and children’s textile products. The results showed that fluorine, a good indicator of the likely presence of PFAS, was present in all 34 samples. Ten products with high fluorine levels were tested and confirmed to have detectable levels of individual PFAS. The products tested included various baby supplies, such as bedding, bibs, changing pads, clothing, nursing pillows, outerwear, pacifier clips, playmats, activity gyms, snack bags and soft toys.

REPORT: New baby textile product tests show concerning levels of toxic ‘forever chemicals’

PRESS RELEASE: New tests find toxic “forever chemicals” in pet food bags and baby textiles


September 2022

Fruit leather: A snack sometimes chock full of pesticides and sugar

An independent laboratory in 2021 and 2022 conducted EWG-commissioned tests of 37 samples of organic and non-organic fruit leather from 10 well-known brands purchased at a range of different stores. Detectable levels of pesticides known to harm people were found in half of the non-organic samples of dried fruit and in all 26 samples of the non-organic fruit leather tested.

REPORT: Fruit leather: A snack sometimes chock full of pesticides and sugar

PRESS RELEASE: Beloved children’s fruit snacks test positive for pesticides


July 2020

EWG Detects Weedkiller Glyphosate in Hummus, Chickpeas, Lentils and Beans

EWG commissioned tests of 80 samples of hummus, chickpeas, lentils and other beans and detected glyphosate in 85 percent of those samples. Of the 33 conventional, or non-organic, hummus samples tested, all but two had detectable levels of glyphosate, and more than one-third contained levels higher than EWG’s benchmark for children’s health.

REPORT: EWG Tests of Hummus Find High Levels of Glyphosate Weedkiller

PRESS RELEASE: High Levels of Bayer’s Weedkiller Found in Hummus, Chickpeas


March 2020

'Forever Chemicals’ in Milk: EWG Tests Negative but Further Food Testing Warranted

EWG commissioned tests of supermarket milk for the fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS as reports of dairy farm contamination across the nation surfaced. All 10 samples were analyzed by an accredited, independent laboratory for 30 different PFAS. None of the chemicals was present above the detection limits, but more testing of milk and other foods is essential to ensure that the U.S. food supply is safe from contamination.

REPORT: ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Milk: EWG Tests All Negative, But More Food Testing Needed


January 2020

PFAS Contamination of Drinking Water Far More Prevalent Than Previously Reported: New Detections of ‘Forever Chemicals’ in New York, D.C., Other Major Cities

Laboratory tests commissioned by EWG have for the first time found the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS in the drinking water of dozens of U.S. cities, including major metropolitan areas. The results confirm that previous studies have dramatically underestimated the number of Americans exposed to PFAS from contaminated tap water.

REPORT: PFAS Contamination of Drinking Water Far More Prevalent Than Previously Reported: New Detections of ‘Forever Chemicals’ in New York, D.C., Other Major Cities

EWG PRESS RELEASE: PFAS Contamination of Drinking Water Far More Prevalent Than Previously Reported: New Detections of ‘Forever Chemicals’ in New York, D.C., Other Major Cities


January 2020

Alert: Tests Find High Levels of Asbestos in Children’s Makeup Kit

The notorious carcinogen asbestos has been found in a talc-containing eye shadow in a children’s toy makeup kit, according to laboratory tests commissioned by EWG. The lab found that every gram of the eye shadow in the Princess Girl’s All-in-One Deluxe Makeup Palette tested contained more than 4 million asbestos fiber structures. The toy makeup palette is marketed by IQ Toys and sold on the company’s website and on Amazon and Ebay. (Note: The product was removed from both websites after our report appeared.)

EWG PRESS RELEASE: Alert: Tests Find High Levels of Asbestos in Children's Makeup Kit


2018-2019

EWG Tests Detect Weedkiller Glyphosate in Popular Breakfast Cereals, Other Foods

Popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola and snack bars come with a hefty dose of the weedkilling poison in Roundup, according to independent laboratory tests commissioned by EWG.

REPORT, JUNE 2019: In New Round of Tests, Monsanto’s Weedkiller Still Contaminates Foods Marketed to Children

REPORT, FEBRUARY 2019: PGlyphosate Contamination in Food Goes Far Beyond Oat Products

REPORT, OCTOBER 2018: New Round of EWG Testing Finds Glyphosate in Kids’ Breakfast Foods From Quaker Oats, General Mills

REPORT, AUGUST 2019: Breakfast With a Dose of Roundup?


March 2019

EWG Tests Detect Cancer-Causing Pesticide Dacthal on Kale

Nearly 60 percent of kale samples sold in the U.S. were contaminated with residues of dacthal, a pesticide the Environmental Protection Agency considers a possible human carcinogen, according to EWG’s analysis of 2017 Department of Agriculture test data. EWG-commissioned tests of kale from grocery stores found that on two of eight samples, dacthal residues were comparable to the average level reported by the USDA.

REPORT: More Than Half of Kale Samples Tainted by Possibly Cancer-Causing Pesticide


February 2019

San Francisco Tap Water Tests: Pesticides Not Detected

EWG commissioned tests of San Francisco’s tap water because of public concern about potential pesticide contamination. EWG distributed sample kits to eight households and one office location, and all samples were tested by SimpleWater. No pesticides were detected in any of the samples. The results confirmed test results published by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

REPORT: San Francisco Tap Water Tests: Pesticides Not Detected


September 2018

EWG Study: Smarter Seafood Choices Can Lower Mercury Exposure for Parents and Their Future Children

In this study, 20 American women between ages 27 and 49 with relatively high mercury levels followed the guidance of EWG’s Seafood Calculator to choose low-mercury seafood options. At the end of three months, participants’ average level of mercury, as measured in samples their hair, decreased by nearly a third. More than half of the women saw their individual mercury levels drop by at least 25 percent.

REPORT: EWG Study: Smarter Seafood Choices Can Lower Mercury Exposure for Parents and Their Future Children


February 2017

Collaborative Research Project: Many Fast-Food Wrappers Still Coated in PFCs, Kin to Carcinogenic Teflon Chemical

Scientists from nonprofit research organizations, including EWG, federal and state regulatory agencies and academic institutions, collaborated to test samples of sandwich and pastry wrappers, french fry bags, pizza boxes, and other paper and paperboard from 27 fast-food chains and several local restaurants in five regions of the U.S. They found that of the 327 samples used to serve food, collected in 2014 and 2015, 40 percent tested positive for fluorine.

REPORT: Many Fast-Food Wrappers Still Coated in PFCs, Kin to Carcinogenic Teflon Chemical


March 2016

Mercury in Seafood: U.S. Fish Advice May Expose Babies to Too Much Mercury

EWG study enrolled 254 women who eat at least two meals of seafood, fish or shellfish every week and measured the amount of mercury in their hair to assess how much mercury was in their bodies. Tests revealed that almost 30 percent of study participants had too much mercury exposure, according to Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for pregnant women. Much of their exposure was tied to fish species like tuna and to sushi.

REPORT: U.S. Fish Advice May Expose Babies to Too Much Mercury


July 2015

Tests Find Asbestos in Kids’ Crayons, Crime Scene Kits

Samples of four brands of children’s crayons and two kids’ crime scene fingerprint kits contained deadly asbestos fibers, according to tests commissioned by EWG Action Fund. The toys, purchased at national retail chains or through online retailers, were tested by two government-certified laboratories, using state-of-the-art equipment. The results are significant, because even trace exposure to asbestos can cause cancer and other lung diseases.

REPORT: Tests Find Asbestos in Kids’ Crayons, Crime Scene Kits


December 2010

Chromium-6 – the Erin Brockovich Chemical – Is Widespread in U.S. Tap Water

Tap water from 31 of 35 U.S. cities tested contains hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, the carcinogenic “Erin Brockovich chemical,” according to laboratory tests commissioned by EWG. The highest levels were detected in Norman, Okla.; Honolulu; and Riverside, Calif.

REPORT: Chromium-6 in U.S. Tap Water


July 2010

BPA Coats Cash Register Receipts: Tests Find Chemical-Laden Receipts at National Retailers

In tests commissioned by EWG and conducted by a major laboratory, two-fifths of the paper receipts tested were on heat-activated paper that was between 0.8 and nearly 3 percent pure bisphenol A, or BPA, by weight. Wipe tests conducted with a damp laboratory paper picked up part of the receipts' BPA coating, which suggest that the chemical would likely stick to the skin of anyone who handled them. The receipts came from major retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, post offices and bank ATMs.

REPORT: BPA Coats Cash Register Receipts: Tests Find Chemical-Laden Receipts at National Retailers


November 2009

EWG Study: Classroom Cleaners Release 457 Air Pollutants

EWG commissioned tests of 21 cleaning products that were widely used in schools in California and elsewhere. Products were tested individually by a leading laboratory that specializes in studying air pollution caused by releases from cleaning products. The lab cleaned a model classroom using multiple products at the same time to measure the real-world pollution that occurs when typical assortments of cleaning supplies are used together. As a group, these 21 products released into the air no fewer than 457 distinct chemicals. Six of those airborne substances are known to cause asthma and another 11 are known, probable or possible carcinogens.

REPORT: Be Smart About School Cleaning Supplies


November 2009

Pollution in Minority Newborns: 232 Toxic Chemicals in 10 Minority Babies

Laboratory tests commissioned by EWG have, for the first time, detected bisphenol A, a plastic component and synthetic estrogen, in the umbilical cord blood of American infants. In all, the tests found as many as 232 chemicals in the 10 newborns, all of minority descent. Although the sample is too small to project national trends, the minority cord blood study, commissioned by EWG in conjunction with Rachel’s Network, has produced new evidence that, beginning in the womb, American children are being exposed to complex mixtures of dangerous substances that may have lifelong consequences.

REPORT: Pollution in Minority Newborns: 232 Toxic Chemicals in 10 Minority Babies


May 2009

Pollution in 5 Extraordinary Women: The Chemical Body Burden of Environmental Justice Leaders

An unprecedented two-year study conducted by four independent research laboratories in the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands has documented up to 48 toxic chemicals in the blood of five minority women leaders in the environmental justice movement. The study, sponsored by EWG in conjunction with Rachel's Network, a nationwide organization of women environmental leaders, tested the five women for 75 chemical contaminants. The women were all found to be contaminated with flame retardants, Teflon chemicals, synthetic fragrances, the plastics ingredient bisphenol A and the rocket fuel component perchlorate.

REPORT: Pollution in 5 Extraordinary Women


October 2008

Bottled Water Quality Investigation

Comprehensive tests commissioned by the EWG revealed a surprising array of chemical contaminants in every bottled water brand analyzed, including disinfection byproducts, fertilizer residue, and pain medication.

REPORT: Bottled Water Quality Investigation


September 2008

Fire Retardants in Toddlers and Their Mothers

In the first investigation of toxic fire retardants in parents and their children, EWG found that toddlers and preschoolers typically had three times as much of these hormone-disrupting chemicals in their blood as their mothers. Tests conducted for EWG by one of the world’s leading scientific authorities on fire retardants found that in 19 of 20 U.S. families, concentrations of flame retardant PBDEs were significantly higher in 1.5- to 4-year-old children than in their mothers. In total, 11 different flame retardants were found in these children, and 86 percent of the time, the chemicals were present at higher levels in the children than in their mothers.

REPORT: Fire Retardants in Toddlers and Their Mothers


September 2008

Teen Girl’s Body Burden of Hormone-Altering Cosmetics Chemicals

Laboratory tests reveal adolescent girls across America are contaminated with chemicals commonly used in cosmetics and body care products. EWG detected 16 chemicals from four chemical families – phthalates, triclosan, parabens and musks – in blood and urine samples from 20 teen girls age 14 to 19. Studies link these chemicals to potential health effects, including cancer and hormone disruption. These tests feature first-ever exposure data for parabens in teens and indicate that young women are widely exposed to this common class of cosmetic preservatives, with two parabens, methylparaben and propylparaben, detected in every girl tested.

REPORT: Teen Girls’ Body Burden of Hormone-Altering Cosmetics Chemicals

REPORT: Teen Body Burden – Where Are They Now?


July 2007

Down the Drain: Water Pollution Caused by Cosmetic Chemicals, Cleaning Supplies and Plastics

EWG and East Bay Municipal Utility District researchers analyzed samples of wastewater from residential, commercial and industrial sites in the San Francisco Bay Area. Eighteen of 19 wastewater samples examined contained at least one of three of unregulated, widely used hormone disruptors – phthalates, bisphenol A, and triclosan; two samples contained all three. Despite sophisticated wastewater treatment, these chemicals were detected in treated waters discharged into the Bay.

REPORT: Down the Drain: Water Pollution Caused by Cosmetic Chemicals, Cleaning Supplies and Plastics


March 2007

Bisphenol A – Toxic Plastics Chemical in Canned Food

Independent laboratory tests found a toxic food can lining ingredient associated with birth defects of the male and female reproductive systems in more than half of 97 cans of name-brand fruit, vegetables, soda and other common canned goods. The study targeted the chemical bisphenol A, a plastic and resin ingredient used to line metal food and drink cans.

REPORT: Bisphenol A – Toxic Plastics Chemical in Canned Food


July 2005

Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns

In a study spearheaded by EWG in collaboration with Commonweal, researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. Tests revealed a total of 287 chemicals in the group. The umbilical cord blood of these 10 children, collected by Red Cross after the cord was cut, harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients and wastes from burning coal, gasoline and garbage.

REPORT: Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns


July 2005

Rocket Fuel in Cows' Milk – Perchlorate

Milk from cows raised in some parts of California may expose infants and children to unsafe levels of the rocket fuel chemical perchlorate, according to unreleased tests by state agriculture officials and independent laboratory tests commissioned by EWG. In the first study to look for perchlorate in California supermarket milk, EWG found it in almost every sample tested – 31 of 32 samples purchased from grocery stores in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

REPORT: Rocket Fuel in Cows' Milk – Perchlorate


April 2003

Suspect Salads: Rocket Fuel in Winter Lettuce

Lettuce grown in the fall and winter months in Southern California or Arizona may contain unsafe levels of the toxic rocket fuel chemical perchlorate. In the first tests ever conducted for perchlorate in supermarket produce, 18 percent of lettuce samples contained detectable levels of perchlorate. EWG’s tests on retail lettuce confirm studies showing that vegetables grown with perchlorate-contaminated water or fertilizer can take up and concentrate the toxin.

REPORT: Suspect Salads: Rocket Fuel in Winter Lettuce


May 2001

Poisoned Playgrounds: Arsenic in Pressure-Treated Wood

EWG investigations revealed that the "pressure treated" wood in most playground sets, picnic tables and decks contains potentially hazardous levels of the arsenic.

REPORT: Poisoned Playgrounds: Arsenic in Pressure-Treated Wood


May 2001

Every Breath You Take: Airborne Pesticides in the San Joaquin Valley

Independent scientific monitoring by EWG found dangerously high concentrations of a partially banned pesticide in the air San Joaquin Valley residents breathe. One-third of ambient air monitoring samples detected the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which the federal government has recently banned for home use as unsafe for children, but which remains the most widely used agricultural insecticide in California.

REPORT: Every Breath You Take: Airborne Pesticides in the San Joaquin Valley


January 1999

What You Don't Know Could Hurt You: Pesticides in California's Air

Two years of independent scientific monitoring by EWG detected an array of toxic pesticides drifting into the air Californians breathe – the tip of a 100-million-pound iceberg of hazardous chemicals emitted statewide each year as a result of pesticide use.

REPORT: What You Don't Know Could Hurt You: Pesticides in California's Air


1996-1997

EWG Research Detects Toxic Fumigant Methyl Bromide in California Air

EWG carried out a pesticide air-monitoring project in California using an infrared remote sensing device. Tests of the air in neighborhoods adjacent to agricultural fields receiving applications of the toxic soil fumigant methyl bromide revealed high levels of this pesticide.

REPORT, AUGUST 1996: Toxic Farm Fumigants Drifting into California Neighborhoods

REPORT, FEBRUARY 1997: Something's in the Air: Californians Need Greater Protections Against Methyl Bromide

REPORT, AUGUST 1997: Methyl Bromide in Castroville, Calif

REPORT, OCTOBER 1997: Tests Find Methyl Bromide Drifting Into Mobile Home Park


September 1995

Weedkillers by the Glass

Beginning on May 15, 1995, a network of environmental organizations began testing tap water for weedkillers in cities across the Corn Belt and in Louisiana and Maryland. Samples were collected every three days from homes and offices, then sent to the Iowa State Hygienic Lab and analyzed for the presence of atrazine and cyanazine, two of the most heavily used pesticides in the U.S. The study’s results showed that millions of people in the Midwest have been exposed to one or more pesticides in a single glass of tap water. During peak runoff periods, pesticide contamination levels repeatedly exceed federal health standards and pose significant health risks.

REPORT: Weedkillers by the Glass


July 1995

Pesticides in Baby Food

To determine the extent of pesticide contamination of baby food, in 1995 EWG tested eight foods – applesauce, garden vegetables or pea and carrot blend, green beans, peaches, pears, plums, squash and sweet potatoes – made by the three major baby food producers that account for 96 percent of all baby food sales – Gerber, Heinz and Beech-Nut. All samples were purchased at retail from grocery stores in three major metropolitan areas – Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco. Sixteen pesticides were detected in the eight baby foods tested, including three probable human carcinogens, five possible human carcinogens, eight neurotoxins, five pesticides that disrupt the normal functioning of the hormone system, and five pesticides that are categorized as oral toxicity category one, the most toxic designation.

REPORT: Pesticides in Baby Food