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EWG News Roundup (3/23): Washington State Bans PFCs in Food Packaging, Pruitt’s Pricey ‘Pasta’, Congress Targets Food Stamps and More

In the News
Friday, March 23, 2018

Big news this week comes from Washington state, which became the first in the nation to ban highly toxic fluorinated chemicals from food packaging. The chemicals, known as PFASs or PFCs, have been linked to cancer, thyroid disease, reduced effectiveness of childhood vaccines and other serious health problems. For decades, greaseproof PFAS chemicals have been used in microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, fast food wrappers and other food packaging.

A new study shows laboratory animals exposed to cellphone radiation developed heart and brain tumors similar to the types seen in some studies of human cellphone users. Thje findings reinforce the need for people, especially children, to exercise caution when using cellphones and other radiation-emitting devices.

It seems the nation can’t go a week some new development on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s wasteful use of taxpayer money for luxury travel. News broke that the price tag for Pruitt’s weeklong jaunt to Italy last year cost $120,000, after documents showed an additional $30,000 spent on travel arrangements for his 24/7 security detail. Said EWG President Ken Cook: “Mamma mia, that’s a lot of pasta.”

Some members of the House Agriculture Committee want to put even stricter work requirements for low-income Americans who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, but not on wealthy “farmers” who take millions in federal farm subsidies. 

“SNAP recipients already have to meet rigorous requirements before they receive one penny from the government, Anne Weir Schechinger, EWG’s senior economics analyst. “Why should farm subsidy recipients, most of whom have considerably higher incomes than the average American, get a free pass on their way to the federal feed trough?”

Here is some other news you can use going into the weekend.

Trump Administration

Think Progress: Trump’s nomination slowdown keeps anti-environment, pro-industry candidates in holding pattern

 “Any day a coal lobbyist or chemical industry shill aren’t holding top jobs in Trump’s EPA should be considered a ‘good day’ by the American people,” Environmental Working Group (EWG) President Ken Cook said.  


Body Burden

PopSugar: If a Product Is "Natural," Is It Safe For Pregnant Women? We Uncover the Truth!

"We should avoid risky ingredients at all stages of our lives; however, pregnancy may be a period in which women should be particularly careful," expert Nneka Leiba told me. She is the director of healthy living science for the Environmental Working Group.



Rolling Stone: Why Is China Treating North Carolina Like the Developing World?

An analysis by the Environmental Working Group found that 160,000 people living in the region may be harmed by pig waste. And those victims are disproportionately minorities, according to studies conducted by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.


California Lead Testing Program

Capital & Main: Battery Blood: How California Health Agencies Failed Exide Workers

We shared [our] data . . . with several lawmakers and Bill Allayaud, the California director of the Environmental Working Group, a science-based watchdog organization. Allayaud’s group has spearheaded several proposed lead laws in California. “We all know how the neighborhoods around Exide were polluted with toxic lead over the long term, and now we are finding out how workers on the frontlines were neglected by the agencies that are supposed to monitor and demand that hazardous conditions be eliminated,” Allayaud said. “This needs to be fixed so this never happens again.”

Pasadena Now: Assemblymember Holden's Legislation to Help Protect Children from Lead Poisoning Passes First Policy Committee

Almost three-fourths of California’s high-risk children — 1- and 2-year-olds enrolled in the state-run low-income health insurance program – had not been tested for lead in their blood, according to a recent Environmental Working Group analysis of California’s most recent lead testing data.


California PFAS in Food Wrappers Bill

The National Law Review: California Considers Regulating Food Packaging under Green Chemistry Initiative

Five NGOs (i.e., the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), Environmental Working Group (EWG), Clean Water Action (CWA), Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, and UpStream) submitted comments supporting the inclusion of food contact materials in the Draft Work Plan.  



TODAY (NBC): An expert's choice for the best eco-friendly cleaning supplies

Note: Most of these cleaning products have been graded A or B by Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.

Business Insider: The best dish soap you can buy

When writing this guide, we consulted the website of the Environmental Working Group, a neat organization that seeks to “empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment.” The group examines various products to find out if they contain ingredients that could cause harm to individuals or the Earth.

Mother Nature Network: 7 alternatives to toxic cleaning products

"Castile soap, and soap in general, has been the recommendation of experts on how to clean anything ever since we realized the importance of cleaning," Lisa Bronner, public relations specialist at Dr. Bronner’s and the granddaughter of the company’s founder, tells Rodale's. Plus, it's free of harmful chemicals, according to the Environmental Working Group.



The Washington Post: Bothered by fragrances? This story will be a breath of fresh air.

Environmental Working Group guides: The EWG provides easy-to-use online databases where you can search for what it deems healthy cleaners and healthy personal-care products. You can then check those products’ ingredients, if provided, to see whether “fragrance” or “perfume” is listed.

Glamour: How to Clean Up Your Beauty Routine

The average American woman uses 12 beauty products a day, according to the Environmental Working Group. Together, those tally up to an average of 168 ingredients, which can make for a weird chemical soup on your skin. On top of that, many of those have never been adequately assessed for safety, says Nneka Leiba, director of the healthy living science program at the EWG.

ELLE Singapore: Here's Why You Should Opt For Clean (NOT Green) Beauty

To wit, a deep dive by the non-profit Environmental Working Group in 2016 revealed that more than 5,000 (!) ostensibly “organic” cosmetics flaunted far-fetched claims that did not warrant the green light, so to speak.

Prevention: Are Your Beauty Products Toxic?

Women use an average of 12 personal care products every day, exposing themselves to 168 chemicals, according to the Environmental Working Group. Men use half as many products but still come in contact with 85 chemicals daily.

Well+Good: These are the 7 buzziest fragrances for spring and beyond

Pronounced “tha-late,” these chemical plasticizers that can be found in everything from hair sprays to nail polish, and they’re used as a solvent in perfume. The verdict is still out on what kind of damage they can do, and more research needs to be done, but according to the Environmental Working Group initial studies have shown that phthalates could potentially act as hormone disruptors.

Yahoo! News: Perfume ingredient is 'painfully scraped' from shocking place, says PETA

Today, some fragrance companies have turned to synthetic musk. But according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), even synthetic musk may be carcinogenic. Two common faux musk chemicals, known as nitromusk and polycyclic musk, have been detected in the body in fatty tissue, blood, and breast milk. Some nitromusks have reportedly been linked to cancer and fertility problems in women, or even simply to skin irritation.


Cosmetics – PFCs in Cosmetics report

HuffPost: Here’s How To Find Out If There’s Teflon In Your Beauty Products

However, a recent study conducted by the Environmental Working Group found that a number of beauty and skin care products contain Teflon, the brand name for a chemical called polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE, and/or other fluorinated chemicals known as per- and polyfluoralkyl substances (PFASs). Reprinted by Yahoo!.


Cosmetics – Skin Deep

Business Insider: The best natural makeup you can buy The ingredients list on makeup products can be overwhelming, and it's often in very small print. A good way to check how safe a product is is to visit the online EWG Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. Here you can verify the safety ratings of more than 73,000 beauty products.


Farm Bill

Public Now: Ahead of Farm Bill Debate, Booker, Lee Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Conservation Program

Supporters of the EQIP Improvement Act include: American Bird Conservancy, American Canoe Association, American Rivers, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Environment America, Environmental Working Group…


Food Policy

Food Tank: Watch the 2018 Food Tank Seattle Summit!

Food Tank presented its completely SOLD OUT Summit in Seattle, Washington 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. Reprinted by The Daily Meal.


Shopper’s Guide

Daily Mail: These 12 everyday items could be wrecking your hormones - from make-up to tooth fillers to shopping receipts

You can also check websites such as the Environmental Working Group for their 'dirty dozen' and 'clean fifteen', a list of fruit and vegetables that are most and least contaminated with pesticides, respectively. Reprinted by Celebrity Rave, Express Digest and This is Money.

MSN Lifestyle: Toxins You Don’t Know You’re Actually Eating

A single sample of sweet bell pepper contained 15 different pesticides. They have been on EWG’s “Dirty Dozen” list for a year. They made a big leap in 2012 in part because 88 different pesticides were found in the vegetables during testing.

Philly Voice: Comparing apples to apples: The best ways to enjoy them

But what I find helpful is knowing what’s on the Environmental Working Group’s 2017 Dirty Dozen list so I can prioritize my organic shopping list. These are the fruits and vegetables they tested that had the most pesticide residues on them after being washed. Apples show up on this list as number four, so it’s safe to say that it’s best to pick a peck of organic apples when possible.



Care2: Why Is Sunscreen Bad for Coral Reefs?

Should humans then risk cancer to protect coral reefs? Thankfully, one must not make that choice and, according to the National Park Service, reading the labels on sunscreen bottles should suffice. Sunscreens with titanium oxide or zinc oxide have not been found to harm reefs, and the nonprofit Environmental Working Group has an extensive list of coral-friendly sunscreens for reference on its website


Tap Water Database

Women’s Health: Is Tap Water Safe? Here's How To Tell

Plug your zip code into the Environmental Working Group's Tap Water Database(ewg.org) or request a report from your local water utility. Flummoxed by all those chemical names? Want to know what's being done to correct violations? Ask your provider.

Environmental Monitor: US Steel Dumping Chromium: Citizens Fighting for Lake Michigan, and Drinkable Water

Hexavalent chromium or chromium-6 is a heavy metal known to be a carcinogen in humans and animals. In fall of 2016, the Environmental Working Group released an analysis of EPA data that concluded that almost 200 million Americans from all 50 states are exposed to unsafe levels of chromium-6 in their drinking water. This comes from a variety of sources, but chromium-6 does not occur in the environment naturally, so all of those sources are human-made—produced by industrial concerns such as U.S. Steel.


Tap Water – PFAS

The Progressive Pulse: Low levels of perfluorinated compounds detected in Durham drinking water; new statewide monitoring system proposed

The EPA has established a health advisory goal of 70 parts per trillion a combination of PFOS and PFAS, but there is no enforceable regulatory standard for them under the Clean Water Act or the Safe Drinking Water Act. Some states, though, have established their own legal limits for PFOAs. Vermont has set its threshold at 20 ppt for PFOA , while  New Jersey has proposed limits of 14 ppt, according to the Environmental Working Group.


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