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EWG’s News Roundup (2/23): Pruitt’s First-Class Travel, Air Pollutants in Your Home and More

In the News
Friday, February 23, 2018

Following weeks of scrutiny from both ends of the political spectrum, House Oversight Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., announced that his committee would open an investigation into Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s pricey first-class flying habit. Recently, The Washington Post uncovered that Pruitt ran up a $90,000 flight tab in a single month.

“Scott Pruitt burns through cash on lavish first-class travel like a Wall Street banker. Unfortunately, he’s using precious taxpayer dollars, not his own, to do it,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “That money could be used to protect public health, but Pruitt has decided squandering it on more leg room and a bigger seat is a much better use of taxpayers’ money.”

These developments coincided with the one year (unhappy) anniversary of Administrator Pruitt’s confirmation. EWG reviewed the lowlights of Pruitt’s first year in charge of the EPA.


On Tuesday, we counted how frequently contaminated personal care products have led to side effects like burned scalps, hair loss and lead exposure. Legislation in Congress right now would give federal agencies the teeth to prevent such contamination and protect consumers.

We also took time this week to dig into a recent study of how the chemicals used in common products – like cleaners, cosmetics and perfumes – affect air quality. The most shocking finding was that volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, released from these products now rival auto emissions as a source of air pollution.

For more information on VOCs and how to reduce emissions in your home, be sure to check out EWG’s Skin Deep® database, Guide to Healthy Cleaning and Healthy Living: Home Guide.

The EPA will soon decide to restrict or ban asbestos under the new chemical regulation law. This week EWG joined the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and American Oversight to file a Freedom of Information Act request to unearth the details of recent conversations between the agency and the chemical industry. Documents show that just last year, representatives from EPA met with representatives from the American Chemistry Council and major chemical companies at least four times.

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

3M Pollution Trial and PFOS

Associated Press: Minnesota’s $5B case over 3M chemicals heads to trial

David Andrews is a senior scientist at Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that conducts research to protect health and the environment. He said the case’s impact would be huge if Minnesota wins and 3M is held accountable.

Minnesota Public Radio: All eyes on Minnesota as state readies fight against 3M in water pollution trial

"These cases and the ultimate potential liability for these companies I think is extremely important, and does force them to essentially consider more of the impacts these chemicals can have over a lifetime," said David Andrews, a senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group, a national environmental advocacy organization.

EWG and American Oversight FOIA

POLITICO: FOIA What It’s Worth

American Oversight, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and the Environmental Working Group have filed a FOIA request for communication between EPA officials and representatives from the American Chemistry Council and the Chlorine Institute, as well as companies including Occidental Chemical, Olin and Chemours. The request comes ahead of a decision on restrictions expected to be related to asbestos under the Toxic Substances Control Act.

VOCs and Air Pollution

NPR/PRI Science Friday: There’s A New Urban Air Polluter On The Block

“And of course there are products that don’t contain VOCs. The California Air Resource Board has a website and the Environmental Working Group has a website so people can find some of these things that won’t get outside or stay inside.”

Albany Times Union: On Minimizing Indoor Air Pollution

The Environmental Working Group also has some consumer guides online. Please, share widely, and for the asthmatics in your life, consider purchasing the fragrance free versions of your favorite products.

MinnPost: Half of air pollution in cities may come from household cleaners and other consumer products, study suggests

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has produced a helpful guide to healthy cleaning products, which you can find on its website.

Body Burden

Well+Good: Why it’s important to do a detox before starting a new diet

Dr. Hyman explains that toxic chemicals—from food, air, the environment—are absorbed by the body every day. “According to the nonprofit organization Environmental Working Group, the average newborn baby has 287 known toxins in his or her umbilical cord blood,” Dr. Hyman says. This means the mother is exposed to at least this many toxins on a daily basis, “so imagine how many you have been exposed to in your life,” he says.

Mercola: 86 Percent of Teens Are Loaded With Gender-Bending Chemicals

A study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group engaged the services of five laboratories to examine the umbilical cord blood of 10 African-American, Hispanic and Asian children. The researchers found more than 200 chemicals in each of the newborns, demonstrating the vulnerability of the developing infant to environmental exposure.

EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaners

The Huffington Post: Here’s How To (Realistically) Make The Switch To Green Cleaning Products

Free of phosphates, optical brighteners, chlorine and dyes and made with naturally-derived ingredients, this laundry detergent from Grab Green scores an A on EWG’s toxicity scale.

Palm Beach Post: Putting the Dollar Tree cleaner ‘LA's Totally Awesome' to the test!

You may shy away from cheap cleaners due to environmental or health concerns, but LA’s Totally Awesome oxygen cleaner received an ‘A’ from the Environmental Working Group. (Considered the standard for rating the toxicity of personal care products.) Reprinted by Atlanta Journal-Constitution and 11 more media outlets.

Best Life: This Is How to Make Your Own Home Dusting Spray

Many common dusting products contain chemicals that have been linked to respiratory irritation, central nervous system depression, and cancer, among other health issues, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Skin Deep

Reader’s Digest: The Toxic Chemical Lurking in Your Favorite Lipstick

Lead poses health risks to men and women of all ages, but children should be extra cautious of products containing lead. “The main problem with lead is that it’s neurotoxin in that is has an effect on the brain,” explains Nneka Leiba, director of Healthy Living Science at EWG. “So it’s especially harmful to younger children because the brain isn’t fully developed.”

Organic Authority: Do Natural Eyelash Growth Serums Actually Work?

Here are three products along with a list of the “Suspect Ingredients” they contain (rated higher than 1 by Environmental Working Group Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database).

Food Policy

The Daily Meal: 35+ Food Leaders to Convene Next Week in Washington, D.C.

A limited amount of tickets are still available for Food Tank’s Inaugural Seattle Summit on March 17, 2018 titled “Growing Food Policy,” in partnership with the Environmental Working Group, Food Action, Garden-Raised Bounty (GRuB), the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Seattle University’s Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability.

Food Tank: Food, Business, and Sustainability: An Intersection Revolutionizing the Food System

Kristen Rainey is a food acquisition and sustainability leader at Google. She will be speaking at the Seattle Food Tank Summit, “Growing Food Policy,” which will be held in partnership with the Environmental Working Group, Food Action, Garden-Raised Bounty, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Seattle University’s Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability on March 17, 2018. Reprinted by The Daily Meal.

EWG’s Seafood Guide

Popsugar: Keep These 8 Diet-Busting Foods Off Your Plate If You Want to Lose Weight

According to the Environmental Working Group, imported farmed salmon is also one of the top five foods with the worst environmental footprint," she says. Be sure to check labels, and stay safe. Reprinted by NewsDog.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in ProduceTM

NBC9: KUSA (Denver, Colo.): Is organic food really worth it?

EWG's Dirty Dozen: Strawberries, Spinach, Nectarines, Apples, Peaches, Pears, Cherries, Grapes, Celery, Tomatoes, Sweet Bell Peppers and Potatoes.

Reader’s Digest: 9 Signs You Might Be Eating Too Many Preservatives

Nearly 75 percent of produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2014 contained pesticide residues, according to a report from Environmental Working Group (EWG). “Opt for organic or buy local, so you can ask what has been sprayed on the product,” she says. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of produce the EWG singles out as having the highest pesticide loads.

Tap Water Database

ABC9: WTVC (Hamilton County, Tenn.): NewsChannel 9 Investigates: What's in your water?

His investigation began with a trip to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group's website. There, he found a list of five cancer causing contaminants above Tennessee and National Averages in the Dayton Water supply.


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