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EWG News Roundup (4/26): Tainted Water Wells in Iowa, EPA PFAS Clean-Up Plan Falls Short, and More

In the News
Friday, April 26, 2019

This week EWG released a report and map documenting widespread bacteria contamination of private drinking-water wells across Iowa. Focusing on two ubiquitous agricultural contaminants, coliform bacteria and nitrate, we mapped nearly 55,000 tested private wells in the state – 22,000 of which had at least one positive test for either contaminant.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler released the Trump administration’s proposed plan to clean up toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS throughout the nation. EWG believes EPA’s plan falls short in many ways.

“This proposal is not a serious response to a drinking water contamination crisis that has already ballooned out of control,” said EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews. “It is a Band-Aid, at best, that does essentially nothing to help the hundreds – perhaps thousands – of communities, in almost every state, with contaminated tap water. Americans need real and swift action to address this crisis, not more toothless proposals from the Trump administration.”  

In other EPA news, former EPA head Scott Pruitt was recently hired as a lobbyist to help save coal interests in Indiana. He couldn’t.

“The battle between coal and renewables is over. Coal lost,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “And nothing, including lobbying by an inept grifter like Scott Pruitt, is going to bring it back.”

Next week Congress returns to session and the House will consider the Climate Action Now Act, a bill that would require the president to reduce national carbon dioxide emissions by 2025 to 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels. This bill would not only help combat climate change but also create millions of new green American jobs.

And finally, EWG applauded a group a bipartisan lawmakers in California for advancing a bill that would protect Californians, especially children, from jewelry tainted with highly toxic heavy metals. The Safe Jewelry Act, a bill co-sponsored by EWG, would dramatically lower the allowable amount of lead in jewelry marketed to older teens and adults from 60,000 to just 500 parts per million. The bill would also apply California’s limit on cadmium in children’s jewelry, which is currently set at 300 ppm, to jewelry marketed to children 15 years and younger.

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

Iowa Wells Report

Agri Pulse: Private well study shows rising nitrate levels in Iowa

An Environmental Working Group and Iowa Environmental Council report says nitrate levels rose from 3.1 parts per million in 2002 to 5.7 ppm in 2013.

Business Record: Report: Nitrate levels rising, many wells not tested

The Iowa Environmental Council and the Environmental Working Group analyzed test results from 2002 to 2017. In that time, average nitrate levels rose from 3.1 milligrams per liter in 2003 to 5.7 milligrams per liter in 2013.

Circle of Blue: Nitrate Pollution Rising in Private Wells in Iowa

That’s according to a report prepared by two nonprofit research and advocacy groups, Environmental Working Group and Iowa Environmental Council, and based on an analysis of a state database.

Des Moines Register: Thousands of private wells have unsafe levels of bacteria, nitrates, new study says

The Environmental Working Group and the Iowa Environmental Council blame farmers' use of fertilizer for the pollution.

Reprinted by Iowa City Press-Citizen

Eat This, Not That!: What’s The Difference Between Non-GMO and Organic?

Both Newgent and Geagan recommend shopping organic for foods on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen, which is a list of produce ranked by the amount of pesticide residue. Reprinted by msn lifestyle

Fern’s Ag Insider: Many water wells in Iowa tainted by farm runoff, report finds

More than 40 percent of private wells tested positive for coliform bacteria at least once over a 16-year period, according to a new study of Iowa state records by the Environmental Working Group and the Iowa Environmental Council. Up to 290,000 Iowans rely on water from private wells, yet the state tested just 55,000 for nitrates or bacteria during the years of the study.

The Gazette (Cedar Rapids IA): Reports: Iowa water quality getting worse and underfunded

A joint report released by the Environmental Working Group and the Iowa Environmental Council analyzed state records from 2002-2017 found that, in private wells that were tested, the average nitrate levels grew from 3.1 parts per million in 2003 to 5.7 ppm in 2013

Reprinted by Soouthern Minn (Faribault MN, Waseca County)Quad-City Times (Davenport IA)Cherokee Tribune & Ledger-News (Canton GA)The Courier (Waterloo IA)Marietta Daily Journal (Roswell GA)Sioux City Journal (IA)SW Iowa News Source (Atlantic IA)Globe Gazette Online (Mason City)The Chariton Newspapers (IA)Naked Capitalism

Mother Jones: There’s an Amazingly Simple, Beautiful Way to Fix Midwestern Farmlands

Renegade farm fertilizer also fouls water supplies in cities and towns throughout the corn belt, including Des Moines, Iowa, and Columbus, Ohio, along with residential wells. Even at levels well below the US Environmental Protection Agency’s legal limit for drinking water, nitrates from fertilizer have been associated with heightened risk of bladder, ovarian, and thyroid cancer.

We Are Iowa (Des Moines, TV): STUDY: Thousands of wells in Iowa are contaminated

According to the survey performed by the Environmental Working Group, thousands of Iowans have reported seeing contamination in their private wells from nitrates and coliform bacteria in their private wells. According to state data, between 230,000 and 290,000 Iowans get their drinking water from their private wells.

Radio Iowa: Iowa Environmental Council report finds issues with private wells

See the full report from the Environmental Working Group and the Iowa Environmental Council here.

Iowa Public Radio: Study Finds Thousands Of Iowans Are Drinking Contaminated Well Water

A review of 15 years of state data by the Environmental Working Group shows thousands of Iowans are seeing contamination from nitrates and coliform bacteria in their private wells, which the EWG researchers say is largely due to farm runoff from synthetic fertilizers and manure.

Earth Dinner

People: Chip & Jo Share a Kiss in N.Y.C., Plus The Rock, Michelle Pfeiffer & More

Michelle Pfeiffer and pal Ken Cook share a laugh at the Environmental Working Group’s 10th annual Earth Dinner on Tuesday in San Francisco.

Maumee River Basin and Harmful Algal Blooms

The Toledo Blade: Big ag needs a closer look

A recent study by the Washington-based Environmental Working Group and the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center has concluded that the Maumee River watershed now has 775 hog, cattle, dairy, and poultry operations — 42 percent more than in 2005.

(Reprinted from Associated Press) The Washington Times: Editorials from around Ohio

The study by the Environmental Working Group and Environmental Law & Policy Center used satellite and aerial photos and state permit figures to track unregulated livestock farms.

Reprinted by Boston 25 News (TV)Lancaster Farming (Ephrata PA)U.S. News & World ReportHerald-Dispatch (Huntington WV)Northwest Signal (Napoleon OH)Inde Online (Massillon OH)Crescent News (Defiance OH)

Michelle Pfeiffer’s Henry Rose Launch

Vanity Fair: Michelle Pfeiffer Redefines Celebrity Perfume for the Wellness Era—And Her Name’s Not Even on the Bottle

Michelle Pfeiffer thinks she has the answer. The actress, 61, has a new collection of scents called Henry Rose (after her children’s middle names). Notably, it is the first high-end perfume line to be certified by the Environmental Working Group, a watchdog organization that monitors toxicity in the beauty industry.

Harper’s Bazaar: Michelle Pfeiffer Talks Her Birkenstock Collection & Why She Loves a Woman In a Great Suit

Eventually I found the [nonprofit] Environmental Working Group’s cosmetic database, Skin Deep, which grades beauty products based on transparency, manufacturing practices, and quality of ingredients.

Entertainment Tonight: 10 Clean Beauty Products to Try for Earth Day

The brand prides itself on being transparent about its use of non-toxic ingredients that have been approved under some of the strictest health and sustainability standards -- Environmental Working Group Verified™ and Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Gold.

Fast Company: Michelle Pfeiffer on why her new safe scents pass the smell test

The scents are verified by the Environmental Working Group, meaning they contain none of the chemicals that group has identified as harmful.

EPA Asbestos Rule

Chemistry World: New US asbestos rule criticised as outright ban on the carcinogen ditched

‘This new rule makes it more difficult for industry to resume some abandoned uses of asbestos, but that is a half-step at best,’ stated the Environmental Working Group’s legislative attorney, Melanie Benesh.

Trump Administration  

Nation of Change: Federal court rules EPA must make final decision on potential ban on pesticide linked to brain damage in children its been dragging its feet on

“We’ll find out in three months if the Trump EPA remains under the tight control of the chemical agriculture industry, or if Administrator Wheeler will finally take his job seriously and ban this brain-damaging pesticide,” Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said.

Agriculture Trade Aid

Osakis Review: Letter (Alexandria MN): Abuse of ag trade aid costs taxpayers

However, a recent report from the Environmental Working Group highlights two major flaws: 1) Some farming operations are receiving excessive payments because they are taking advantage of loopholes, like having numerous absentee managers or family members claim "active personal management."


How Stuff Works: Is Borax Harmful or Helpful?
"Borax ... can be toxic. In fact, it's sometimes used to kill pests such as ants," writes Megan Boyle on the Environmental Working Group website.

Bottled Water

Mercola: Arsenic Found in This Product From Whole Foods and Dr. Pepper

Previous testing conducted by the Environmental Working Group showed nearly 40 low-level contaminants in bottled water, including Tylenol, nitrates, industrial chemicals and arsenic.


National Resources Defense Council (NRDC): New Swine Waste Permit Fails to Protect Communities & Water

According to the Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance, the number of birds in poultry operations in North Carolina rose from 147 million in 1997 to 516 million in 2018.

The Plain Dealer/Cleveland.com: Ohio needs to stop letting smaller livestock farms pollute Lake Erie: editorial

The study by the Environmental Working Group and Environmental Law & Policy Center used satellite and aerial photos and state permit figures to track unregulated livestock farms.

Successful Farming: Make Manure Great Again: New Tech Challenge Aims to Put Animal Waste to Work

North Carolina’s hog farms and other confined animal feeding operations produce 10 billion gallons of fecal waste each year, which could fill more than 15,000 Olympic-size swimming pools, according to Environmental Working Group.

Cleaning Products

Oh Baby: Dirt is Good

The Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) claims 53 per cent of cleaning products they assessed contained ingredients known to harm the lungs. About 22 per cent had chemicals believed to cause asthma.


Blueland products, she says, don’t contain any of the chemicals restricted by the Environmental Working Group, is compliant with California’s Proposition 65 (which dictates that brands disclose their use of chemicals “known to the State of California to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity”), and are certified “cruelty-free” by Leaping Bunny.

Reprinted by Awesome Moment


Think Progress: Courts deal two major blows to Trump environmental agenda in one week

“We’ll find out in three months if the Trump EPA remains under the tight control of the chemical agriculture industry, or if Administrator [Andrew] Wheeler will finally take his job seriously and ban this brain-damaging pesticide,” said Environmental Working Group (EWG) President Ken Cook in a statement to ThinkProgress and other publications.

Consumer Guides

App. (USA Today): Are there toxic chemicals in your cosmetics, sunblock or shampoo?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment, has researched ingredients found in everday products.

California Cosmetics Bill

Northern California Record: Bill aimed at banning chemicals in personal care products stalls in California legislature

The bill is sponsored by Environmental Working Group and CALPIRG, the California-headquartered consumer advocacy organization.

Valley News (VT and NH): Consumer Confidential: Cosmetics industry crushes bill that would have made makeup and hair products safer.

Susan Little, senior advocate for California government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, said it’s foolish to keep products on store shelves if there’s even a remote chance they’re dangerous.

Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database

My Lubbock (Lubbock TX): Liquid Sulfate-Free Shampoo Sales Surge Amidst Growing Focus on Sustainable Solutions, finds Fact

The study finds that the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Skin Deep® database is one of the leading information source for cosmetic ingredients.

Reprinted by benzingaWRCBtv (Chattanooga TN)WSIL ABC (Carterville IL)RFD TV (Rockville MD TV)Kake ABC (Kansas); other ABC affiliates

Washingtonian: Five Ways to Incorporate Clean Beauty Into Your Routine

To figure out what you can keep using and what you should eventually replace, look up your products on the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics database or scan them using the Think Dirty app, says Mulcahy.

Earth Day/Month

Forbes: 10 Beauty Brands That Are Giving Back To The Planet This Earth Day

During Month of April, to celebrate Earth Month, Juice Beauty will donate $1 from every sale of their USDA Organic Treatment Oil to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which advocates for the use of safe ingredients in beauty and personal care products.

Fox Business: Earth Day: Risks, deals and brands trying to make a difference

This year, True Food Kitchen has decided to celebrate Earth Day all month long by partnering with Environmental Working Group.

Patch: Unhappy Earth Day

Support organizations such as: …

The Environmental Working Group

Thrillist: All the Deals You Can Get Today for Earth Day

Every time a Good Earth Kale Cobb salad is sold, True Food Kitchen will donate $1 to the Environmental Working Group (the group that publishes the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists).

EPA Chemical Assessments

NC Policy Watch: PW special report (Part 2): Unregulated, untested unknown

“We’re not very optimistic,” said Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group, a watchdog organization headquartered in Washington, DC. “The trend under this administration is that the risk evaluations get narrower and narrower.”

EPA Drinking Water Standards

The New York Times: E.P.A. Proposes Weaker Standards on Chemicals Contaminating Drinking Water

A senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, David Andrews, criticized the guidelines as a “woefully inadequate response” to what has been widely called one of the most pressing public health threats in the United States.


Women’s Health: The 12 Best Shampoos For Protecting Your Color-Treated Hair

Verified by the Environmental Working Group and the Royal Botanic Gardens, this honey and vitamin B-fortified shampoo gently washes your strands while softening the scalp.

Food Scores

CNN: A peep into the history of Easter’s marshmallow icon

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy organization, gives Peeps a score of nine on its a nutrition scale from one to 10, with one being a food of least concern and 10 being of higher concern. Reprinted by YakTriNews (Kennewick WA)att.netKXLY (Spokane WA)News4Jax (Jacksonville FL)East Idaho News (Idaho Falls)Click on DetroitErie News Now (Erie PA)Channel 3000 (Madison WI)KPLR (St. Louis)News 6 Click OrlandoHeaven 98.3 (Tallahassee Radio); NewsCladLocal 10 (Pembroke Park FL TV)News Channel 21 (Bend OR)KRDO (Colorado Springs)Click 2 HoustonNews8000 (La Crosse WI)CBS BaltimoreJackson Progress-Argus (Jackson GA)Clayton News Daily (Jonesboro GA)PIX 11 (New York)NYC InformerAlbany Herald (NY)Gwinnett Daily Post (Lawrenceville GA)The Citizens (Conyers GA)WTOP (Washington DC); Other ABC affiliates; Other Fox affiliates; CBS affiliates

Monsanto’s Glyphosate

Times Colonist (Victoria B.C.): Your Good Health: Ignoring symptoms a risky move for senior

A 2018 study by the Environmental Working Group found levels of glyphosate in oatmeal breakfast cereals to be between 0.5 and 1 parts per million.


Organic Report: The Power of Collaboration

Coming together to discuss what they saw as organic priorities to pursue in the 2018 Farm Bill were representatives from…Environmental Working Group…

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

21 WFMJ (NBC affiliate TV; Youngstown OH): Boardman dietitian offers tips to protect kids from pesticides on the 'Dirty Dozen'

The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization, recently published their "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean 15" lists.

Akron Life: Out Last

When it comes to whether to buy organic, Bouquot goes by the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen guide to produce with the top amounts of pesticide contamination.

The Columbus Dispatch: How clean are your fruits and veggies?

Now, however, comes some bad news about kale. It has wound up on Environmental Working Group’s 2019 Dirty Dozen list, an annual ranking of the fruits and vegetables that contain the most pesticides.

Dana Point Times (Capistrano Beach CA): Guest Opinion: Community, Sustainability, Prosperity by Hoiyin Ip

So avoid the Dirty 12 in Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce by Environmental Working Group: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes.

The Denver Post: Thinking of planting a garden from seeds? Here are 5 inspirational ideas to get you started.

Every year the Environmental Working Group compiles a list of the “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables grown with the most pesticide exposure.

The Denver Post: What you need to know if you want to grow strawberries in Colorado

But unless you buy organic, strawberries consistently top the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of plants most contaminated by chemicals.

EWG's Guide to Sunscreens

FabFitFun: The Best Reef-Safe Sunscreens for Eco-Friendly SPF Protection

“Most of the top products in the Environmental Working Group (EWG) database use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.”

First for Women: You’re Probably Applying Your Sunscreen All Wrong

If you’re looking for some guidance, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reviews and lists both sunscreen and SPF moisturizers for their safety and effectiveness.

Medical Health News: SPF 100 Sunscreen Really Is More Effective—but Only if You Apply It the Right Way           

SPF 100 tends to get a bit of an eye-roll from some researchers because studies show the number gives people a false sense of security, according to the Environmental Working Group, ultimately causing them to not apply as much or often as they should.

Reprinted by Prevention

Tap Water Database 

Her Campus: Why I Am NEVER Drinking Water Again

However, this documentary really got me going and I found the EWG’s Tap Water Database.

PFAS in Drinking Water

Detroit Free Press: PFAS contamination is Michigan's biggest environmental crisis in 40 years

An analysis by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, using EPA data, last year found that up to 1,500 public drinking water systems nationwide, serving 110 million Americans, contain PFOA, PFOS and other PFAS compounds.

InsideEPA: EPA Unveils PFAS Groundwater Guide But DOD Compliance Uncertain

Environmental Working Group Senior Scientist David Andrews, in an April 25 statement, said the guidance is “a woefully inadequate response to the growing nationwide crisis of drinking water contaminated with PFAS."

Michigan Radio (NPR): EPA seeking public comment on recommendations for PFAS cleanup

In a press release, the Environmental Working Group said the proposal is an inadequate response to fixing PFAS contamination.


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