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EWG News and Analysis

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EWG News Roundup (12/7): EWG Analyzes Korean Beauty Trends, Coal Consumption Plummets and More

In the News
Friday, December 7, 2018

This week, EWG released an analysis that breaks down the rising trend of serum and essence cosmetics. We analyzed 352 products in our Skin Deep® cosmetics database – with 66 meeting our strictest criteria for health and transparency to earn our EWG VERIFIED™ mark. We also created a list of our Best Bets – those that are less hazardous to both your health and your wallet.

We also reacted to news this week that U.S. coal consumption has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 40 years.

The following day, acting Environmental Protection Agency head Andrew Wheeler announced that the agency would be rolling back an Obama-era rule that requires carbon dioxide emission monitoring at coal-powered plants.

“Many utilities continue to drag their feet with respect to renewables, preferring to gravitate first to natural gas. But investor pressure about climate and financial risk, growing public support for renewables, and the continued declining costs of wind and solar are big reasons why coal is being pushed out of the market,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “And no number of regulatory rollbacks or empty campaign promises to coal miners is going to change the move toward clean energy. The only variable now is how quickly the transition to an electric system dominated by renewables will occur.”

In discouraging news out of Europe, a new study from the Danish EPA found harmful fluorinated chemicals, or PFAS, in a number of personal care products it tested. Some PFAS concentrations detected “exceeded” limits that will soon be in place under the EU’s chemical regulatory program.

Over on our Children’s Health site, we pulled together a list of 11 guilt-free holiday gifts and published the second installment in our improving indoor air quality series.

Finally, we weighed in on the party-line Senate vote on Thursday that confirmed Bernard McNamee as the newest member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which is supposed to be impartial and independent from the Trump administration when making decisions. McNamee has openly criticized renewable energy and played a central role in the Trump administration’s attempt to bail out the dying coal and nuclear industries.

Here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.

Herbal Essences EWG VERIFIED™ Launch

Well+Good: Clean hair care is coming for your shower in a *big* way

If Herbal Essence‘s ’90s commercials of a woman lathering up and screaming, “Yes! yes! yes!” from the shower is what you remember of the brand, here’s the second act: In a massive move, Herbal Essence is introducing two new bio:Renew sulfate-free shampoos and conditioners that are Environmental Working Group (EWG) verified and coming to a drugstore near you. So, expect to hear the same types of satisfied shouts of yes! from conscientious consumers standing in beauty aisles reading their fully transparent ingredient labels beginning in January 2019.

Serums and Essences Report

Health: The 11 Best Serums and Essences, According to the EWG

But not all serums and essences are created equal, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The nonprofit just released a new report on serums and essences to determine which ones are safest, and which could contain potentially hazardous ingredients.

Women’s Wear Daily: Does Expensive Equal Safer When It Comes to K-beauty? (subsdcription)

The EWG accessed more than 350 serums and essences to see how their ingredients stack up with its Skin Deep database. The most expensive K-beauty serums and essences are not necessarily the ones with fewer ingredients that carry some potential hazards. That’s according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group that took a deep dive into the safety of ingredients of more than 350 products in the booming category.

$12 Billion Bailout of Farmers

CBS4: WCCO (Minneapolis, Minn.): Reality Check: Where Minnesota’s Emergency Farm Bailout Money Went

USDA officials declined WCCO-TV’s request to reveal how much Minnesota farmers are getting, but USDA data obtained by the watchdog Environmental Working Group shows the majority of Minnesota bailout money is going to a small number of big farms.

MinnPost: Minnesota forecasts $1.54 billion surplus

 WCCO’s Pat Kessler reports: “Only a fraction of a $12 billion federal bailout program to help farmers hurt by trade tariffs has made it to Minnesota. … The United States Department of Agriculture reports it has disbursed $1.4 billion in emergency farm aid so far through November 26 — out of the total $12 billion it promised. … USDA officials declined WCCO-TV’s request to reveal how much Minnesota farmers are getting, but USDA data obtained by the watchdog Environmental Working Group shows the majority of Minnesota bailout money is going to a small number of big farms.”

Delaware Public Radio: Delaware farmers on edge as trade war uncertainty drags on

Data provided to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group shows more than 100 people and farms in Delaware received bailouts between the start of September and the end of October. The amounts range from $8 dollars to $13,050. The data from EWG just covers those two months, totaling $356 million nationally, less than half of what's been reportedly paid out.

Food Politics: The Effects of Our Trade War With China

Payments are going to 1,100 city residents; these average $881.  According to the Environmental Working Group, the recipients may or may not actually be involved in farming.  The EWG got the data from the USDA.

The Courier (Waterloo, Iowa): Editorial – Emergency trade aid goes to 90210

The Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based organization, reported more than 1,000 people who live in the 50 largest cities in the United States got some of the nearly 88,000 payments the USDA had shipped out through the end of last month.

The High Plains Journal: Trump tariff payments go to ‘city slickers’ as well as rural mailboxes

Farm bailout payments intended to offset the impact of President Donald Trump’s trade war have instead flowed to more than 1,000 persons who live in the nation’s largest cities, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group on Nov. 19.

Farm Bill

CATO Institute: OPINION: Congress Shouldn’t Have To Pass The Farm Bill To Find Out What’s In It

This year’s farm bill has been exposed as a pork-fest by agriculture scholars at both conservative and liberal think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation and the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Heritage’s expert, Daren Bakst, is calling the bill a “nightmare” and a “disaster.” Reprinted by Before It’s News.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Editorial – After launching a disastrous trade war, Trump's plan to help farmers mostly doesn't. 

In addition, urban residents who own shares in farms, and others with technical but not actual connections to farming, have been getting their cuts, according to a report by the watchdog organization Environmental Working Group.

The Shepherd Express (Milwaukee, Wis.): The Great American Farm Bailout Swindle

The Environmental Working Group—a non-partisan research group that has tracked farm subsidies for two decades—said the largest 10% of corporate agribusinesses qualifying for bailouts received 68% of all the money as small change was tossed to struggling family farmers on the edge of extinction.

Environmental Protection Agency and Alexandra Dapolito Dunn

Chemical Watch: Dunn committed to bringing TSCA to 'full effect'

Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), told Chemical Watch the confirmation decision is ultimately "as much a referendum on the Trump EPA’s implementation of TSCA as it is about her suitability for the role."

Trump Administration and Energy Policy

Bloomberg News: Trump Lifting Hurdle to Coal Plants No One Wants to Clear

“No number of regulatory rollbacks or empty campaign promises to coal miners is going to change the move toward clean energy,” said Kenneth Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization. “The only variable now is how quickly the transition to an electric system dominated by renewables will occur.” Reprinted by FortuneSFGate and Yahoo! Finance.

ThinkProgress: Trump, world powers fight to save coal as U.S. consumption drops to lowest rate in 40 years

“The trend lines showing the demise of coal shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, including those in the Trump administration and coal industry executives,” said Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook in a statement Tuesday. “There are times when the entire state of California, the fifth largest economy in the world, is powered entirely by renewable energy sources, and other states from across the country are actively pursuing clean energy policies.”

ThinkProgress: Trump’s EPA to weaken emissions standards for new coal plants despite urgency of climate crisis

“No number of regulatory rollbacks or empty campaign promises to coal miners is going to change the move toward clean energy,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group.

Atrazine Contamination Report (Dallas, Texas): Toxic Herbicide Discovered In 500 Water Utility Systems Across Texas

Atrazine is used to prevent weeds from growing in crops, and to have it in our drinking water, at this time, is especially odd since farmers aren't typically in growing season right now. A report from the Environmental Working Group found that nearly 30 million Americans have atrazine in their tap water, and those in Texas who live near sorghum or corn-growing areas are more likely to have contaminated drinking water.

Cleaning Products

Business Insider: 5 times you shouldn't buy the Kirkland brand at Costco

Despite the detergent's name, The Environmental Working Group has given Kirkland's “Environmentally Responsible” liquid laundry detergent an F-grade for environmental friendliness, citing risks of asthma, skin irritation, cancer, and harm to the environment.

MindBodyGreen: 5 Starter Products For Your Nontoxic Home (That Won't Break The Bank)

If you don't recognize some of them, take the extra step of searching for them on the Environmental Working Group's Healthy Cleaning database just to be safe! One general rule of thumb: If you feel like you need to open a window when you use something, you probably shouldn't be using it.

Real Everything: 7 Safer Cleaning Swaps & GIVEAWAY + Coupons

Environmental Working Group’s investigation of more than 2,000 cleaning supplies on the American market has found that many contain substances linked to serious health problems.


New York Magazine – The Strategist: The 10 Best Books on Skin Care, According to Beauty Experts and Editors

If you’re the type of person who has the Environmental Working Group bookmarked on your browser, No More Dirty Looks is one to know. “This book was one of the original catalysts for me to start my very own clean beauty journey,” says Foley. 

MoneyWeek: Money makers – a recipe for success in cosmetics
Then one day the message was really brought home to her. “I was washing my children with a natural foaming oatmeal body wash by a name brand, but when I went on the American activist group Environmental Working Group’s website, it rated it an eight out of nine for toxicity,” she says. “I was putting toxins on my babies. I was just outraged. And I became truly obsessed with this.”

Mother Nature News: 5 Chemicals to Avoid in Cosmetics

An initial study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted in 2008 found 16 chemicals from four chemical families — phthalates, triclosan, parabens and musks — in the blood and urine of 20 teen girls. Though some of these ingredients have since been banned, some are still not strictly regulated. 

Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database

Science Daily: Prenatal exposure to chemicals in personal care products may speed puberty in girls

“There has been increasing awareness of chemicals in personal care products and consumer demand for products with lower levels of chemicals,” Harley said. “Resources like the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database or the Think Dirty App can help savvy consumers reduce their exposure.” Reprinted by the Science Blog and Technology Networks.

The Guardian: Chemicals found in perfume, hand creams, body lotion pushes early puberty in girls

“There has been increasing awareness of chemicals in personal care products and consumer demand for products with lower levels of chemicals,” Harley said. “Resources like the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database or the Think Dirty App can help savvy consumers reduce their exposure.”

HealthDay: Could Soaps, Shampoos Be Pushing Girls Into Early Puberty?

As to what consumers can do, Cuomo suggested checking out the website of the watchdog organization Environmental Working Group. There you can "find a list of those products that are relatively safe to use," meaning products that are free of parabens, phthalates, triclosan and similar chemicals. Republished by NewsmaxU.S. News & World Report and WebMD.


Business Insider: Best Baby Wipes

MADE OF wipes received the Environmental Working Group's EWG Verified seal of approval thanks to their "good manufacturing practices" and for avoiding "EWG's ingredients of concern."

Thrive Market: How W3LL PEOPLE Is Pioneering Innovative, Plant-Based Cosmetics

Every W3LL PEOPLE is product is made in small batches in the U.S., and contains an advanced botanical complex of organic aloe, organic chamomile, and organic green tea to help nourish skin. Because of its vigilant use of plant-based ingredients, the brand has been verified by the Environmental Working Group (EWG); if an ingredient is listed in the EWG database with a hazard ranking higher than 3 (the lower the number, the better), W3LL PEOPLE won’t use it.

EWG's Healthy Living App

Business Insider: Chemicals found in makeup, toothpaste, and soap could trigger early puberty. Here's why you should care even if you're not pregnant.

For at-home shopping, Harley recommended the Skin Deep Database, which provides the ingredients of any product you search. When in the store, she suggested apps like Think DirtyGoodGuide, and the Environmental Working Group app, which reveal ingredients after a barcode scan.  As with all health matters, continuing to self-educate is imperative. 


Best Life: 23 Toxic Chemicals You Come into Contact with on a Daily Basis

Lead is bad news for your body. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the chemical has been found to cause everything from brain damage and hearing loss to miscarriage and kidney damage. Yikes, right? Unfortunately, it’s not only commonly found in old paint, but also drinking water—so grab a water filter and get rid of any lead-based paint in your home, stat.

Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health

CBC: Your Meals Are Speeding Up Climate Change, But There’s a Way to Eat Sustainably

Things get worse if your meal contains red meat — a seven-ounce steak is equivalent to driving 50 kilometres, based on calculations by the non-profit Environmental Working Group.

Monsanto’s Glyphosate

The Guardian: Opinion – The weedkiller in our food is killing us

Almonds, carrots, quinoa, soy products, vegetable oil, corn and corn oil, canola seeds used in canola oil, beets and beet sugar, sweet potatoes – these are just some of the foodstuffs which typically contain high levels of glyphosate. Research released in August by the non-profit Environmental Working Group found that Cheerios, Quaker Old Fashioned Oats and at least 29 other popular breakfast foods contained what the EWG considers unsafe quantities of the herbicide.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

CNN: NEW DAY TRANSCRIPT – Hearing from CIA Director; Trump's Diplomatic Deficit; Humanitarian Crisis at Migrant Shelter; Buying Organic Vegetables; Parkland Students Win Award. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Even after being washed, some vegetables contain high levels of pesticides. The Environment Working Group puts out a list every year of the most contaminated produce. Spinach was the highest ranking veggie on the 2018 Dirty Dozen list, followed by tomatoes, celery, potatoes and sweet bell peppers. If you eat a lot of hot peppers, the EWG recommend you also buy those organic since pesticide residue could be more toxic than those found on other vegetables.

The Delish: 75 Easy Food Resolutions To Help You Eat Better In The New Year

Beware of dirty produce. We're all for loading up on fresh fruits and veggies, but some choices are safer than others. Stay up-to-date with the EWG's annual "Dirty Dozen" list to learn about which options have high pesticide residue levels.

MSN: 50 Foods You Should Never Eat

The Solution: Opt for organic strawberries! The Environmental Working Group, which analyzes U.S. Department of Agriculture pesticide-residue data, has found 13 different pesticide residues on conventionally grown strawberries.

MSN: 50 easy ways to save on your weekly grocery visits

Know when to buy organic. The Environmental Working Group has a list that outlines conventionally farmed fruits and vegetables that you don’t have to buy organic.

PFAS in Drinking Water

The Forum (Howard Beach, N.Y.): Senator Sounds Alarm over Airports Using Toxic Chemicals that Poison Local Waterways

According to a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group, as many as 110 million Americans are drinking from water supplies contaminated by PFAS; and according to the Green Science Policy Institute, 75 percent of PFAS contamination sites are likely related to firefighting foam use.

Genesee Country Express (Dansville, N.Y.): Outlawed chemical still in use

75 percent of PFAS contamination sites listed on Northeastern University’s PFAS Contamination tracker are likely related to firefighting foam use, according to an analysis by the Green Science Policy Institute, and contamination has effected 110 million Americans, according to a study the Environmental Working Group conducted.

SEJ Tip Sheet: In 2019, PFAS Chemicals Will Show Up in Drinking Water … and Headlines

One environmental group estimated that up to 110 million Americans could be drinking water contaminated by PFAS. The Environmental Working Group has mapped out the contamination known to date.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: As Trump Administration Drags Its Feet On Implementing New Law That Would Help End The Use Of Dangerous Pfas Chemicals At Airports Across New York And The Country, Gillibrand Calls For Immediate Implementation Of Law That Would Finally Allow Airports To Stop Using Toxic Chemicals That Poison Local Waterways

According to a study the Environmental Working Group conducted, as many as 110 million Americans are drinking water supplies contaminated by PFAS, and according to the Green Science Policy Institute, 75 percent of PFAS contamination sites are likely related to firefighting foam use. Many large airports around the world have started using alternative, fluorine-free replacements. The FAA Reauthorization bill allows airports in the United States to finally use alternative, industry-accepted firefighting foam.


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