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EWG News and Analysis

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EWG News Roundup (9/21): Asbestos in U.S. Schools, House Members’ Votes on Toxic Chemical Bills and More

In the News
Friday, September 21, 2018

On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency’s internal investigative watchdog reported that the agency has to take the required and necessary steps under federal law to protect children from the dangers of asbestos exposure in the nation’s public and private schools.

The more than year-long investigation by the office of the Inspector General found that EPA has largely ignored its responsibilities under the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act of 1986, or AHERA. The act requires, under the oversight of the agency, that all public school districts and private schools regularly inspect buildings for asbestos and take appropriate abatement actions when necessary.

“Turning a blind eye to the risks to children from asbestos at school is tantamount to installing cigarette machines in the hallways,” said EWG President Ken Cook.

The Environmental Working Group Action Fund, EWG’s sister political organization, released the first-ever report scoring every member of the House of Representatives for their votes on legislation in support of President Trump’s pro-chemical industry agenda. The analysis found that 140 House members voted against toxic chemical safeguards every time. By contrast, 149 members consistently voted for chemical safety protections.

EWG Action Fund selected 17 bills and amendments that lawmakers voted on during the last two sessions of Congress to score each member’s votes. The legislation included proposals to gut health and safety protections for chemicals, allow the discharge of pesticides into water, block local governments from prohibiting pesticide use at playgrounds and parks, and inform the public about the risks of toxic chemicals.

EWG is tracking outbreaks of potentially toxic algae across the U.S. These outbreaks have occurred  from the East Coast to the West Coast, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Though outbreaks of algae vary in type, severity and health hazards, all toxic algae outbreaks have serious consequences.

A new report by Duke University scientists found that residents of communities near industrial-scale hog farms in North Carolina face an increased risk of potentially deadly diseases. The new study compared communities without big hog farms to communities with the highest hog farm density, and found 30 percent more deaths among patients with kidney disease, 50 percent more deaths among patients with anemia, and 130 percent more deaths among patients with a blood bacterial infection. The communities near the heaviest concentration of large hog farms also had a greater risk of infant mortality and lower birth weight.

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

Hurricane Florence and CAFOs

Reuters: Florence seen testing N. Carolina environmental codes on toxic hog waste

In North Carolina, hog and poultry waste pits make up 6,848 acres of land according to a report from the Environmental Working Group.

Environmental Health News: Hog farms in North Carolina keep repeating the same mistakes

Hurricane Floyd in 1999 was a worst-case scenario, causing structural damage to six waste pits and flooding 55 others, according to the North Carolina Pork Council. Tens of thousands of hogs perished. After the flooding receded, water sampling revealed dangerous levels of E. Coli and other bacteria associated with food poisoning, the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Environmental Working Group say.

Sierra Magazine: A Sh** Storm in the Making

In 2016, the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Environmental Working Group released an analysis showing that the North Carolina CAFO industry produces 10 billion gallons of wet animal waste each year in over 4,000 waste pits—enough to fill 15,000 Olympic-size swimming pools.

Snopes: Are These Pictures of Pigs on a Farm Flooded by Hurricane Florence?

Typical hog confinements, like the white buildings on the right in that photo, hold about 2,000 hogs each. According to the Environmental Working Group, there are 586,092 hogs in Wayne County and 229 manure lagoons.

Lancashire Independent News: Florence portends more massive hurricanes in age of global warming

North Carolina's hog and other concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, produce nearly 10 billion gallons of fecal waste a year, according to the Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance. An estimated 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 hogs died in the flooding, according to preliminary estimates from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

EcoWatch: 3.4 Million Chickens, 5,500 Hogs Killed in Florence's Flooding

When Matthew hit the state, it flooded more than 140 hog and poultry barns, more than a dozen open hog waste pits and thousands of acres of manure-saturated fields, the Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance reported. Reprinted by Common Dreams.

EcoWatch: Duke University Study: N.C. Residents Living Near Large Hog Farms Have Elevated Disease, Death Risks

As the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Waterkeeper Alliance reported in 2016, every year North Carolina's CAFOs produce almost 10 billion gallons of fecal waste, enough to fill more than 15,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. Much of this waste is stored in open-air pits, then sprayed on farm fields as fertilizer. Reprint of EWG News & Analysis article.

EWG Action Fund’s Congressional Scorecard

The Hill: Over 100 lawmakers consistently voted against chemical safeguards: report

More than 100 House lawmakers consistently voted for legislation to weaken safeguards against toxic chemicals, according to a recent report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Action Fund released Tuesday. Reprinted by MSN.

POLITICO – Morning Energy: Looking Toward the Midterms

The political arm of the Environmental Working Group, known as EWG Action Fund, released a report this morning grading every House lawmaker on chemical policy and chemical safety votes. The action fund focused on 17 bills and amendments, which members voted on during both the 115th and 114th Congresses. An analysis from EWG Action found that 140 lawmakers voted against safeguards for toxic chemicals in every vote, while 149 members consistently voted for chemical safety protections.

Daily Kos: 140 members of Congress voted against chemical safeguards every time

The Environmental Working Group Action Fund has released the first-ever report scrutinizing how every member of the U.S. House of Representatives has voted on chemical policy and safety. The results—140 members voted against chemical safeguards every time while 149 members usually voted for safeguards.

E&E News: Group releases first-ever congressional scorecard (subscription)

Like other green congressional ratings, the Environmental Working Group Action Fund's analysis found a sharp partisan divide in voting patterns. Out of 435 voting members of the House, 140 Republicans backed all 17 measures that EWG's political arm claimed would weaken toxic chemical safeguards.

Chemical Watch: NGO rates US lawmakers on chemicals policy

The EWG Action Fund report, which comes in the midst of campaigning for the high-stakes mid-term US election in November, scores lawmakers on 17 bills and amendments voted on during the current and most recent sessions of Congress. Included in these are several regulatory reform measures, legislation addressing pollution, ozone standards and pesticides, as well as bills addressing the EPA’s science policy, including the HONEST Act.

Florida Food & Farm: How ‘toxic,’ or ‘non-toxic,’ is your U.S. representative? EWG wants you to know

The Environmental Working Group has released its EWG Action Fund’s Toxic Chemical Policy Scorecard. This report shows the voting record, on toxic pollution votes, “of every member of the U.S. House of Representatives” — in effect, it creates a “toxic chemical policy scorecard so you can know where your member stands,” says its website, www.ewg.org.

TCPalm: Ron DeSantis, Bill Posey receive 0 on environment voting scorecard; Brian Mast also scores low

The scorecard released Tuesday by the Environmental Working Group gave Reps. Ron DeSantis and Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, a 0 for their voting habits on environmental policies. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, received a score of 13 out of 100.

NJ Insider: EWG Scorecard Should be a Wake-Up Call on Toxics

The Environmental Working Group Action Fund released a report scoring every member of the House of Representatives on their voting record for legislation in support of President Trump’s pro-chemical industry agenda. The Sierra Club worked with the EWG on many chemical safety and environmental toxic issues.

EcoWatch: Report: 140 House Members Vote Against Chemical Safeguards Every Time

The Environmental Working Group Action Fund, the political arm of the Environmental Working Group, released a first-ever report that scores how each member of the U.S. House of Representatives voted on chemical policy and safety. Reprinted by Environment Guru.

The Farm Bill

The Intercept: How a Ragtag Group of Oregon Locals Took On the Biggest Chemical Companies in World — and Won

The measure is one of several “anti-environmental provisions” in the bill “that threaten public health,” according to a letter from 107 House members. The Republican-backed attempt to clamp down on local governments also flies in the face of the party’s rhetoric, according to Scott Faber, vice president of governmental affairs at the Environmental Working Group. “Hypocrisy is not a strong enough word for Republicans working to block local public health ordinances designed to protect children,” said Faber. “It’s a party that more or less exists to empower local government to make decisions.”

Farm Subsidies

The Fort Dodge Messenger (Fort Dodge, Iowa): This hypocrisy needs to stop

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.

The Post Register (Idaho Falls, Idaho): Hold politicians accountable on Medicaid expansion

And, really, why should our legislators turn their noses up at federal money? After all, the Environmental Working Group reports that Idaho farmers received about $3.65 billion in subsidies between 1995 and 2016. With 24 percent of our legislators actively involved in agribusiness, and many of our state policymakers involved in making money from agriculture, it’s little surprise that these folks are perfectly happy to suck on the government teat.

VTDigger: Margolis: Is it too late to save the lake?

Two years ago, Vermont farmers got $6.34 million (almost all of it for dairy) according to the Environmental Working Group, which calculated that Vermont farmers got $317 million over the previous 20 years. And still the dairy farms are not making money.

Environmental Protection Agency

EcoRI: N.E. EPA Director Headed to D.C. After Just 9 Months

The Environmental Working Group said Dunn shouldn’t be confirmed until she commits to banning chemical such as methylene chloride and chlorpyrifos and pledges to reverses other recent deregulation.

California Salon Worker Bill

CBS News: California salon workers to learn what's in products they use

Meant to protect the state's roughly 300,000 licensed cosmetologists and 130,000 manicurists, the new law had the backing of entities including the Environmental Working Group (EWG). For instance, formaldehyde-based hair-straightening treatments pose a health risk to workers and clients because they emit toxic fumes while being applied, warned EWG in a 2011 report.

Algal Blooms

Indiana Public Radio: Farmer Diligence May Be Preventing Algal Blooms In Indiana

A map of articles reporting algal blooms across the country by the Environmental Working Group reveals a widespread problem. But that algae doesn’t seem to be contaminating Indiana’s drinking water as much as it is in other states.

EcoWatch: The Many Hazards of Toxic Algae Outbreaks

This summer, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is tracking outbreaks of potentially toxic algae across the U.S. We have been startled to find that these outbreaks are erupting everywhere: from the East Coast to the West Coast, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Reprint of EWG News & Analysis article.

Asbestos

EcoWatch: EPA Is Failing to Protect School Children From Asbestos, Internal Watchdog Agency Says

Asbestos is a carcinogen that causes as many as 15,000 deaths a year in the U.S., according to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) study.

Nation of Change: EPA is failing to protect school children from asbestos, internal watchdog agency says

Asbestos is a carcinogen that causes as many as 15,000 deaths a year in the U.S., according to an Environmental Working Group (EWG) study.

BPA

Health Impact News: Study: FDA’s “Safe Limits” for BPA Not So Safe

Independent research consistently documents serious health problems associated with low-dose exposure to BPA, yet the FDA continues to insist that the chemical is “safe at the current levels occurring in foods.” Read the full article at the Environmental Working Group. Reprint of EWG news release.

Cleaners

Reports Healthcare: How Safe Are Environmental-Friendly Products?

A report released by the Environmental Working Group in 2016 showed something different. Many of the products which claim to be safe for the environment along with health are not what they seem. They contain some chemicals which do not quite go with the description.

Cosmetics

ABC News: How to green your beauty routine: 6 popular product picks

The average woman uses 12 products containing 168 different ingredients daily, according to the Environmental Working Group.  A final tip from Gaillard is to utilize resources that help identify ingredients to avoid. He recommends the Environmental Working Group (EWG)'s tips for safe skincare and Think Dirty, a free app.

VOX: The “natural” beauty industry is on the rise because we’re scared of chemicals

“What we’re most concerned about is the overall [chemical] body burden,” says Nneka Leiba, the director of the Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Living Science program. “Companies hear our position on that and sometimes they agree and sometimes they don’t.” Some watchdog groups have become powerful in challenging the mainstream beauty establishment on this issue; the EWG, established 25 years ago as a nonprofit to look at pesticides and food, is arguably the most powerful one.

Daily Mail: What the fuzz! Experts warn mold and harmful bacteria could be growing in your SKINCARE, causing acne and irritation - as they reveal how to keep your products clean and germ-free

'It’s really important that we push people away from the idea of preservative-free,' Nneka Leiba, deputy director of research for the Environmental Working Group, told Well + Good

London Evening Standard (U.K.): Celebrating afro hair: How I learned to love my natural kinks and curls

In fact, one in 12 beauty and personal products marketed to African-American women in the US contain highly dangerous ingredients, according to a 2016 report by the Environmental Working Group. There is no such data available for the UK, but many of the hair products used by black British women have been shipped over from the US.

Cosmetics – Skin Deep

Byrdie: These Websites Show Which Ingredients Are Really in Your Beauty Products

EWG's Skin Deep database currently contains information and online hazard assessments for over 74,000 products. Staff scientists compare the ingredients on product labels and websites to information in nearly 60 toxicity and regulatory databases. EWG gives a low, moderate or high score on concerns like a product's overall toxicity and its ability to cause cancer, developmental or reproductive harm.

Food Additives

Chemical Watch: Legal challenge of US food additives rule will move forward

The court, however, found that co-plaintiffs the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP), Center for Science in the Public Interest, and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) did not sufficiently support their claim of standing in the suit. They have been dismissed from the case. The suit is being heard in the US District Court for the southern district of New York.

Eat This, Not That: 30 Shocking Secret Ingredients Hiding in Your Favorite Foods

Popular cookie and cake mixes contain this preservative that’s used as a “stabilizer” in foods. The problem is you’ll also find the ingredient on the Environmental Working Group’s food additive watch list.

Food Scores

Austin Moms Blog: What is Natural Flavor?

According to the Environmental Working Group, natural flavor is the fourth most common ingredient in their database of food.  It falls only behind salt, water, and sugar.  So if you’re eating any type of processed food, chances are, you’re eating natural flavor.

Glyphosate in Oats Report

Dr. Oz: The Weed Killer in Your Cereal

Originally aired on 9/17/2018  Dr. Oz gives an exclusive inside look into how and why weed killer is getting into your food. Find out the truth about this chemical and if it can harm you and your family. Guests: Mark Schatzker, Scott Faber

Delish: Is It OK To Eat Cheerios Again?

A little more than a month ago, the Environmental Working Group broke the news that some of your all-time favorite snacks had levels of weed killer in them. Since then, the world has learned of tens of other scary food-related incidents, so it felt time to circle back on what may have been the farthest-reaching one: Cheerios.

TCPalm: LTE – Just say no to glyphosate in Lake O
In this country, the spraying of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, on food crops grew from 11,000 tons in 1992 to 88,000 tons 25 years later, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. How did it gain such wide acceptance and why is it being sprayed on millions of acres of wheat, soy, corn, sugar and cotton crops, among others? It’s turning up in cereals such as Cheerios and Lucky Charms, according to the Environmental Working Group. It’s in our air and water.

Shopper’s Guide

Houston Chronicle: Chemical conundrum: 5 ways to keep pesticides away from your kids

According to federal data compiled by the Environmental Working Group, the produce most likely to retain pesticides (a group known as the “Dirty Dozen”) includes strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, sweet bell peppers and hot peppers; you can further reduce pesticide risk by peeling these before consumption. Reprinted by The Baltimore Sun.

Harvard Health Blog: 5 tips for the farmers market

But some plants accumulate more chemicals than others. The nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) has researched pesticide accumulation in various conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, and has published lists of the most contaminated that should be avoided (titled The Dirty Dozen), as well as the least contaminated and safest (The Clean Fifteen).

Philadelphia Life Magazine: Clean, Living

For guidance on produce, Dr. Pallav refers patients to the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen,” meaning the 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest loads of pesticide residues, and “Clean Fifteen,” meaning the 15 that have few, if any, residues detected.

Tap Water Database 

SEJ: WatchDog: SEJ Joins Free Press Campaigns; Plus Trump Administration Censorship and Improved Tap Water Database

EWG Tap Water Database a Handy Tool for Drinking Water Stories -- For environmental journalists, drinking water safety stories are a reliable topic for getting audience interest. A nonpartisan, nonprofit group offers a database that makes finding such stories a lot easier. The Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database has been around for a while, but it has gotten better — it’s now easier to use and with more data.

Tap Water Database – PFAS

Bloomberg BNA: Glass Half-Full on State Solutions to Chemicals in Water

PFAS contamination has been found in at least 172 sites in 40 states, according to the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group that tracks pollution and supports tougher standards. More than 1,500 drinking water systems serving 110 million people may be contaminated with PFOA or PFOS, it said in May.

 

 

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