EWG News and Analysis
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EWG News Roundup (9/14): Health Effects from Hurricane Florence, Groundbreaking BPA Study and More
As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas, EWG is keeping a watchful eye on the environmental and human health impacts of the storm – specifically the flooding of many concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, in southeastern North Carolina which will spew animal feces and carcasses into vital waterways.
Following 2016’s Hurricane Matthew, EWG and Waterkeeper Alliance conducted an analysis of the damage done to CAFOs in its aftermath. Due to the forecasted rainfall and duration of Florence, many people are anticipating an even bigger public health disaster in the form of contaminated water from CAFOs deluged by the storm.
EWG also touted a study recently published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society that shows exposure to bisphenol A, or BPA, significantly changes how glucose affects test subject’s insulin levels. The study, conducted by researchers from Environmental Health Sciences, the University of Missouri at Columbia, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Elche in Spain, was the first of its kind – testing human subjects directly exposed to the chemical.
“These troubling findings should raise alarms at the Food and Drug Administration and ignite renewed efforts to drastically reduce all Americans’ exposure to BPA,” said Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., an EWG toxicologist. “It’s appalling that the FDA and other federal agencies continue to say current exposure levels to BPA are safe and refuse to ban BPA from food and food packaging.”
Additionally, EWG digested the latest news in the energy realm – debunking President Trump’s consistent claim that he will save coal power and extoling the importance of energy efficiency to the clean energy revolution.
EWG also continued its summer-long tracking of developing toxic algae outbreaks throughout the nation with at least 70 publicized blooms developing over the past month. Be sure to check out our interactive story map to see if any blooms have been reported in your area.
For coverage on these developments and more, here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.
Hurricane Florence and CAFOs
A 2016 study by the Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance identified more than 4,000 animal waste pits in North Carolina where pig and chicken excrement is collected. Reprinted 42 times.
The state has about 2,300 industrial pig farms and 9 million hogs. Those pigs and other animals produce 10 billion gallons of untreated sewage annually, according to the Environmental Working Group. North Carolina’s 100-year-flood plains still house 62 industrial hog farms and 30 chicken-raising operations, with a combined 532 manure ponds within the floodplain or within 100 feet of it, the Environmental Working Group said in a statement today.
These hog operations produce almost 10 billion gallons of feces a year—“enough to fill more than 15,000 Olympic-size swimming pools,” according to the Environmental Working Group. That feces is then stored in large open-air lagoons, which Gisler said risk overflow with Florence’s massive expected rainfall totals.
Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) can flood during a hurricane. These factory farms and manure pits may contaminate nearby lakes, rivers and streams, which can be hazardous to human health and the environment. The Environmental Working Group says, “The contaminated water may contain deadly pathogens, such as E. coli or salmonella, which could make drinking water and recreational waters dangerous.”
A 2016 study by the Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance identified more than 4,000 animal waste pits in North Carolina where pig and chicken excrement is collected. Kemp Burdette, with Cape Fear River Watch, said the runoff from animal waste is at the top of his list of concerns.
The Farm Bill
“But Sec. 1603 of the House bill now under consideration would exempt certain farm partnerships, joint ventures and other corporate farms from the means test,” reports Environmental Working Group. “If included in the final farm bill, many millionaires and billionaires will no doubt reorganize their farm businesses to exploit this new loophole.”
But a provision in the House version of the 2018 Farm Bill could preempt the ability of local officials to regulate pesticide use, writes Meg Wilcox for Civil Eats. The House bill would bar regulation of pesticides below the state level, according to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group, which also produced an interactive map of communities that have put restrictions in place.
Add to that list 33 members of Congress, 12 of whom got farm subsidy checks last year, according to studies by the Environmental Working Group and OpenTheBooks. Reprinted by the Fairmont Sentinel (Fairmont, Minn.), Lewistown Sentinel (Penn.), Morning Journal News (Lisbon, Ohio), the Parkersburg News and Sentinel (W.Va.) and the Herald-Star (Steubenville, Ohio).
Good Food Institute Conference
Scott Faber, vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, advanced the dire news. If everyone in the world suddenly starts doing right in terms of resource consumption, but continues to raise meat and dairy animals in the same way — and demand spikes 60 percent to 70 percent with population growth and more people wanting those products — then the world is headed for a climate catastrophe, he said.
Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh
According to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit public interest law firm, Kavanaugh has been presented with 26 environmental protection cases since coming to the D.C. Court of Appeals in 2006. In the 18 cases that were decided on substantive grounds, not procedural ones, he came down on the side of less protection 16 times. Reprinted by Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel .
Reprint of EWG News and Analysis article. Reprinted by the Rim Country Gazette (Arizona).
Trump’s Agribusiness Bailout
Grain commodities groups are not the only ones asking questions about payment rates. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) announced it had issued a Freedom of Information Act request to the USDA. The EWG is an environmental nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on agricultural practices and chemical contents of commonly used items potentially best known for its “dirty dozen” list of produce.
According to the Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database, which aggregates testing data from utilities nationwide, in 2015, atrazine was found in water systems serving nearly 30 million Americans in 27 states. Recent studies have shown that atrazine turns male frogs into females and may increase the risk of cancer and due to its ability to disturb the fine-tuned hormonal balance in the body, even at low doses, atrazine is believed to affect the reproductive system and the developing fetus.
Natural Cleaning Products – Note: Most of these products have been graded A or B by Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.
Be mindful of what you use on your hair, scalp and skin. Since the skin is the largest organ on the body, it absorbs the products you put on it, and they go into the bloodstream, even from your scalp. Blanc suggests looking at the Environmental Working Group Web site for healthier product options.
Most brands and products used at Meraki are EWG-verified. The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit organization dedicated to healthier lives and healthier environment and tests consumer products for their adherence of that mission. Torres said the products are safe for children and pregnant women, and fit in with the green beauty movement.
Skin Deep® Cosmetic Database
The first new ingredient is dimer dilinoleyl dimer dilinoleate, which appears to replace VP/hexadecene copolymer, both of which are skin-conditioning and binding ingredients, according to the Environmental Working Group's cosmetic database. Alcohol also finds its way into the new formulation, as well as caprylyl glycol (another skin-conditioning agent), and chlorphenesin (a synthetic preservative).
In 2016, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which helps consumers lead healthier lives through research and education, tested more than 1,100 products marketed to black women and tracked the toxicity of ingredients in its Skin Deep Database. The results revealed that black women who wanted to shop within the products marketed to them had fewer safe choices, said Nneka Leiba, director of Healthy Living Science for the EWG.
Because it’s EWG verified, you know it’s good for your skin, evening out skin tone and heightening luminosity, thanks to the fresh water pearl in this formula. W3LL PEOPLE Natural Bio Brightener Invisible Powder blurs fine lines and other skin imperfections, and it’s a perfect companion to the foundation stick.
It was supposed to promote alternative fuels derived from nonfood sources, but it is pretty much all about corn. It was supposed to help mitigate climate change, but in a 2014 report, the Environmental Working Group found the Renewable Fuels Standard increased greenhouse gas emissions. It also drove up the costs of food and feed.
Only recently did DOGGR begin tracking and regulating the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the state—a technique that is not governed by the same rules as underground injection wells, even though it involves blasting water and chemicals down wells at high pressures to crack rock formations and release oil trapped below ground. Bill Allayaud, the California director of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, another advocacy organization, says DOGGR was "in denial" about the extent of fracking in California as late as 2012.
Glyphosate in Oats Report
There’s been some recent controversy, too. Last month, Quaker was one of the cereal companies named in a report by the Environmental Working Group, an environmental advocacy organization, as having unsafe levels of glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide on genetically modified crops. Glyphosate has been at the center of much controversy since the World Health Organization called it a probable carcinogen in 2015, though federal regulators maintain it’s safe.
Farmers around the world commonly use glyphosate to kill weeds and control pests. But the U.S.-based Environmental Working Group says American farmers are increasingly spraying the chemical on oats and some other crops to help dry out the plants and harvest them sooner. Reprinted by CTV News.
Recently the Environmental Working Group found elevated levels of glyphosate in 31 of 45 test samples of conventionally grown oats in granola, oat breakfast cereals and snack bars. Even if levels in one sampled product are not necessarily going to cause you harm, the EWG warns that repeated exposure to glyphosate starting in childhood and lasting for decades could be harmful. Reprinted by Hometown Focus.
It is commonly sprayed on non-GMO crops with a possibility for cross-contamination with organic produce. The U.S.-based Environmental Working Group found that a number of cereals, granola bars and oat-based products, including cereals marketed to children, contain glyphosate.
Environmental Working Group tested more than a dozen brands of oat-based foods to give Americans information about dietary exposures that government regulators are keeping secret. In April, internal emails obtained by the nonprofit US Right to Know revealed that the Food and Drug Administration has been testing food for glyphosate for two years and has found “a fair amount,” but the FDA has not released the findings.
And last year, a group made of the Center for Food Safety, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Environmental Defense Fund, and Environmental Working Group sued the FDA over the “secret GRAS system,” calling it “a regulatory scheme in which potentially unsafe chemical substances can be added to food based on conclusions by self-interested food and chemical manufacturers.”
Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™
A good rule of thumb is to follow the produce guide released each year by the Environmental Working Group. The guide lists the “Dirty Dozen” — fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residues — and the “Clean Fifteen” — fruits and vegetables in which few, if any, residues were detected. Use these lists to identify healthier choices for you and your family.
When it comes to possibly scratching potentially harmful chemicals off your grocery list, the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Dirty Dozen list of the 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest amounts of pesticide residue (including strawberries, apples and spinach) can help provide insight as to when it may be most important to buy certified organic.
EWG's Guide to Sunscreen
Alameda Magazine: Sunscreen Facts Worth Knowing
This summer, the Environmental Working Group, a national nonprofit consumer watchdog group, released its annual 2018 sunscreen report, which reviewed 1,000 products, including lip balms and moisturizers, that claim sun protection. It has tracked sunscreen safety, effectiveness, and marketing since 2007, positioning its work as a better guide for consumers than the Federal Drug Administration, which regulates sunscreens. Reprinted by Oakland Magazine.
Superbugs in Meat
Also concerning, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) revealed that not only is grocery store chicken commonly contaminated with salmonella but 1 in 5 strains is resistant to the penicillin drug amoxicillin. Seventy-three percent of salmonella found on ground turkey was also found to be antibiotic resistant.
PFAS in Drinking Water
“States are already stepping up to eliminate PFAS from key product sectors, including food packaging firefighting foam and textiles,” wrote the groups, which included Earthjustice, Safer States and the Environmental Working Group (EWG). “Congress should phase out the use of these chemicals to avoid further contamination.”
According to the Environmental Working Group’s research, as of July 2018 there were 172 known PFAS contamination sites in 40 states, more than three times the number of known sites in 2017. Map courtesy of the Environmental Working Group.