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EWG News Roundup (7/12): PFAS Contamination Crisis Grows as House Passes Critical Cleanup Bill, USDA’s Racist Legacy and More

In the News
Friday, July 12, 2019

This week EWG released an updated map and analysis that shows the extent of American communities’ confirmed contamination with the highly toxic fluorinated compounds known as PFAS. The latest update adds 53 Air Force bases, five Air National Guard bases and 44 civilian airports that are also used by Air National Guard units. 

“Despite knowing the risks posed by PFAS in firefighting foam, the Pentagon continued to put military families at risk for decades,” said Melanie Benesh, EWG’s legislative attorney. “Now, when it’s time to clean up its PFAS pollution, the military is dragging its feet. It’s unconscionable.”

On Friday, the House of Representatives passed a key defense spending bill that includes a number of EWG-backed amendments to better regulate PFAS chemicals, including one that would designate the class of chemicals as “hazardous substances” under EPA’s Superfund law.

EWG, which has been at the forefront of research and advocacy on PFAS chemicals for nearly 20 years, applauded the House for taking this critical first step in addressing the growing emergency.

“Today’s vote marks a turning point, with Congress actively pursuing plans to help combat the ballooning PFAS contamination crisis that is impacting military bases and nearby communities throughout the country,” said Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president for government affairs.

EWG also broke down how President Trump’s trade war with China and farmer bailout dollars continue a racist legacy at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with small farms and farmers of color bearing the brunt of the program’s impact.

On Monday, President Trump delivered a speech to tout his environmental record. The fact is, since taking office, the administration has repeatedly made decisions that put our air, water and land at risk of additional pollution. 

“I don’t envy the fact checkers covering President Trump’s speech,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “The spectacle of the president straining to document a positive environmental record should be seen for what it is – utter fantasy. There has never been a president who has actively pursued an agenda as hostile to the environment and public health at the behest of polluters as Donald Trump.”

Despite dirty coal energy being on its last legs, many coal states have tried to follow the Trump administration’s lead to prop up the dying industry. This week, EWG broke down the many schemes that coal states are employing to bail out coal.

And finally, today marks the 30-year anniversary of the EPA attempt – and failure – to ban asbestos. Since then, it is estimated that 1 million Americans have died from preventable asbestos-caused diseases, according to analysis by the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization of data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, at the University of Washington.

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

New PFAS Map 712 sites in 49 states

Michigan Advance: Michigan lawmakers brace for ‘direct conflict’ with Trump on PFAS

Michigan has the highest number of sites known to be contaminated with PFAS of any state in the country. The Environmental Working Group this week released an updated mapshowing at least 712 sites in 49 states with known PFAS contamination.

House Passes the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

West Virginia Public Radio: House Votes to Monitor Toxic PFAS Chemicals, Sends Bill to White House

PFAS have since been found in the drinking water of millions of Americans, according to research conducted by the Environmental Working Group. The group created an interactivemap that lists contaminated sites across the country.

House Amendments to the NDAA

Buck’s Country Courier Times (PA): Lawmakers continue push for PFAS provisions in military spending bill, draw Trump veto threat

“While these amendments reflect a historic moment ... they will not in themselves solve the PFAS problem,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. “They do reflect a very important first step.” Reprinted by Burlington County Times (NJ)

MLive: A vote this week may help launch changes to federal PFAS oversight

While the amendments “will not in themselves solve the PFAS problem .... they represent a very important first step," said Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group.

Inside EPA: Democratic Senators To Push Superfund PFAS Listing During Wright Vote

Scott Faber, the Environmental Working Group’s senior vice president for government affairs, told reporters July 9 that his organization is “optimistic” the House and Senate conference committee will “combine the best of both bills,” including the hazardous substances designation requirement.

Marketplace: Bill to regulate “Teflon” chemicals in water continues through Congress

EWG Legislative Attonry Melanie Benesh interviewed in the audio. A bill that proponents describe as a first step to regulate so-called “Teflon” chemicals found in products like cookware, rain jackets and waterproof shoes has passed in the Senate and is expected to encounter little opposition in the House.

PFAS and Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.)

Albuquerque Journal: Foam cleanup plan in defense bill runs into trouble

During a press call hosted by the Environmental Working Group, New Mexico’s senior senator questioned who else could be responsible for the polyfluoroalkyl perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) contamination of the groundwater near bases such as Cannon and Holloman other than the DOD or the Air Force.

Siouxland Public Media: Iowa Democratic Lawmakers Push for Consideration of Medical Marijuana Rules, 5:32

The House is considering adding PFAS to the federal superfund law. Scott Faber [FAY-burr] with the Environmental Working Group says that step is vital.

Trump Threatens to Veto NDAA

Chemical Watch: Trump objects to PFAS foam restrictions, threatens to veto spending bill

"Everyone agrees we should end the use of fluorinated foams," the Environmental Working Group’s Scott Faber told Chemical Watch. "The only question is when."

The Hill: Overnight Energy: Trump threatens veto on defense bill that targets 'forever chemicals' | Republicans form conservation caucus | Pressure mounts against EPA's new FOIA rule

Contamination has spread to as many as 43 states, according to the Environmental Working Group, and there are at least 400 military sites with known or suspected PFAS contamination.

The Hill: Trump threatens veto on defense bill that targets 'forever chemicals'

Contamination has spread to as many as 43 states, according to the Environmental Working Group, and there are at least 400 military sites with known or suspected PFAS contamination.

The Intelligencer (PA): Lawmakers continue push for PFAS provisions in military spending bill, draw Trump veto threat

“While these amendments reflect a historic moment ... they will not in themselves solve the PFAS problem,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. “They do reflect a very important first step.” 

NH Union Leader: Pappas: Don't play politics with PFOA, PFOS contamination; Trump advisers want veto of $733B bill with millions for NH

Scott Faber of Environmental Working Group spoke alongside Pappas and said the "forever chemicals" do not break down in the environment and have been linked to cancer and harmful effects to human immune and reproductive systems. 

Pacific Standard: Trump Promises to Veto a Bill Banning the Military from Using Toxic Products with PFAS

recent analysis from the non-profit Environmental Working Group found that, of the more than 700 contaminated locations in 49 states, at least 117 were military bases.

Stars and Stripes: Trump threatens to veto defense bill over several provisions, including amendment to mitigate water contamination

“[Trump] is threatening to veto the national defense bill because it tries too hard to clean up Department of Defense’s toxic waste that is imperiling America’s drinking water and farmers businesses and way of life,” the senator [Udall]said during the conference call coordinated by Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that focuses on environment issues.

My High Plains: President Trump threatens to veto defense spending bill

The Environmental Working Group has confirmed 117 military installations responsible for PFAS contamination so far. They said they will update their interactive PFAS contamination map with more soon.

KAMR-TV Online (TX): President Trump threatens to veto defense spending bill

The Environmental Working Group has confirmed 117 military installations responsible for PFAS contamination so far. 

Trump Speech on Environmental Record

Reuters: Trump touts environment record, green group scoffs

Ken Cook, a spokesman for the Environmental Working Group, called Trump’s speech “utter fantasy.” Reprinted by Ottawa CitizenNetscapeFinancial PostSalem Radio News Network (MA)Regina Leader-Post (Regina SK Canada)Times of News; 31 other media outlets

Think Progress: Lacking support from voters on climate, Trump tests 2020 environment messaging

Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, called the press conference a “spectacle,” while Tiernan Sittenfeld of the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) called Trump “the most anti-environmental president in U.S. history.” Reprinted by Vidmid

Common Dreams: AOC, Bernie Sanders to Introduce Resolution Calling ‘Existential Threat’ of the Climate Crisis an ‘Emergency’

The news came just before Trump delivered a climate address dismissed by the Environmental Working Group as an "utter fantasy." Reprinted by AlterNetEcoWatchRaw Story

Fox News: Trump says Green New Deal would ‘crush’ poor Americans, touts environmental record

Progressive activists said they were unimpressed after the speech. In an interview with Reuters, Ken Cook, a spokesman for the Environmental Working Group, derided Trump's speech as “utter fantasy." Reprinted by WCSI Radio (Columbus IN)

Daily Kos: Open thread for night owls: Trump fails his try-out as a stand-up comedian with environmental speech

Kim Cook of the  Environmental Working Group called Trump’s speech “utter fantasy.” Reprinted by Breaking News TrendingUS Politics

The Hilltop Monitor: Trump to claim ‘environmental leadership’ in speech

"I don't envy the fact checkers covering President Trump's speech", said EWG President Ken Cook.

Newburgh Gazette (IL): Trump Speech on Environment Doesn't Pass Smell Test with Activists

Mr Ken Cook, a spokesman for the Environmental Working Group, called Mr Trump's speech "utter fantasy".

Smart Cities Dive: Mayors left out of Trump’s environmental leadership address

A spokesman for the Environmental Working Group called Trump's speech an "utter fantasy," according to Reuters.

Environmental Protection Agency

Truthout: 10 Ways Andrew Wheeler Has Decimated EPA Protections in Just One Year

According to a recent study by the Environmental Working Group and Northeastern University, these chemicals threaten the drinking water supplies of an estimated 19 million Americans.

Algae Blooms

Mother Jones: This Year’s Wild, Wet Spring Is Feeding Massive Blobs of Toxic Algae

The New Food Economy: Another summer, another run of toxic algal blooms

The Environmental Working Group is tracking this year’s blooms in a database updated weekly. 

Cleaning Products

Women’s Health: The 22 Best Natural Cleaning Products Of 2019, According To Experts

While that should be as easy as peeping the label, ingredients for cleaning products aren't required to be listed on a product or online (aside from a few exceptions), according to Samara Geller, senior research and database analyst at the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Medium: A Safe Switch at the Sink

I used a “green” brand of dish soap for a long time, until I stumbled across the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning and discovered it wasn’t very green at all.

Mind Body Green: How To Clean Clothes Naturally, From The Owners of NYC’s Trendiest Laundromat

After all, a handful of chemicals found in traditional cleaners may prove irritating to the skin and respiratory system after continued use. 1,4-Dioxane, sodium borate, and sodium hypochlorite are a few that the Environmental Working Group has flagged.


Allure: How More Affordable Clean Beauty Products Mean a More Just Society

Walmart declined to share specific figures, but has said that increasing the number of beauty products that are certified by the Environmental Working Group, a cosmetics-ingredient watchdog agency, is a priority for the company.

Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database

Dr. Axe: What Is Magnesium Sulfate & What Is It Used For?

According to the Environmental Working Group, it’s used as a hair conditioning agent, volumizer for hair and hydration treatment for dry skin.

Romper: Are Manicures Safe For Pregnancy? Here’s What To Avoid At The Nail Salon

As noted by the Environmental Working Group, there hasn't been a major federal law regulating the chemicals used by cosmetics industry since 1938.

Duke Energy

Indianapolis Business Journal: Duke Energy to retire coal plants by 2038; critics say utility should move faster

“It’s as if the company operated in a vacuum for the past decade, ignoring the explosion in wind and solar investment by many other utilities,” said Grant Smith, senior energy policy adviser for the Environmental Working Group.

Glyphosate Round 3 Release

Medium: Bayer-Monsanto and the Agrochemical Industrial Complex

In June, environmental watchdog EWG issued a report finding that glyphosate was detected in several oat-based cereal and snack products at a level “higher than what EWG scientists consider protective for children’s health with an adequate margin of safety”.

Mercola: Uh-oh—What’s in your Cheerios?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) commissioned another round of glyphosate testing on 21 oat-based cereal and snack products

Lead in California School Drinking Water

Water Quality Products Magazine: Lead Detected in Drinking Water in California Schools

Lead has been detected in 20% of California’s K-12 school campuses’ drinking water. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), the California State Water Resources Control Board confirmed 1,166 out of 6,595 schools tested found one or more fountains had water with more than 5 ppb of lead.

Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health

Market Watch: The July Fourth Weekend vegan barbecue from hell: Fly-larvae hot dogs and locust ice cream

Meat is the worst food product for producing greenhouse gases due to its production, packaging, transportation and consumption, data from the Environmental Working Group concluded. Reprinted by Morning Star Stock Investor Online


Civil Eats: After 10 Years of Rapid Growth, What Does Organic Mean Today?

We would not have the Organic Food Production Act if it weren’t for groups like the Environmental Working Group, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and Center for Science in the Public Interest. 

PFAS in Packaging

U.S. News: Avoid These Cancer-Causing Foods

The Environmental Working Group raised the alarm about a chemical called PFOA that was used to coat the inside of popcorn bags as a likely carcinogen, prompting the FDA to ban its use in food packaging in 2006. Reprinted by MSNPress From

2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

The Grand Island Independent: Test Kitchen: Pesticides in fruits and vegetables: List of cleanest, dirtiest

Now, alas, 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.

Blogarama: Pesticides and Their Effect on Gut Health

According to the pesticide watchgroup, Environmental Working Group (EWG): “Nearly 70 percent of the produce sold in the U.S. comes with pesticide residues, according to EWG’s analysis of test data from the Department of Agriculture for our 2019 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce….”

K104.7 (Poughkeepsie NY): When Is It Best To Choose Organic Produce?

Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out a list of the twelve fruits and vegetables that contain the most pesticides. 

EWG's Guide to Sunscreens

Daily Commercial (Leesburg FL): Are you buying the wrong sunscreen? 10 of the worst according to experts

In the 13th annual sunscreen guide by nonprofit organization Environmental Working Group (EWG), researchers evaluated the UV-ray protection, the toxic ingredients and any other health hazards in approximately 650 sunscreens, 250 SPF-labeled moisturizers and 115 lip products.

Daily Independent (Ashland KY): 9 things to love about summer

In fact, the Environmental Working Groupsays that about two-thirds of sunscreens offer inadequate sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients.

EcoParent: Sunscreen Use in Babies Under 6 Months

Alternatively, the Environmental Working Group rates cetyl dimethicone as low-hazard and you can check out their comprehensive list of top-rated sunscreens.

Mic: The 6 Best Natural Sunscreens

Formulated to be safe enough for babies, Thinkbaby's Sunscreen SPF 50+ provides UVA and UVB protection with the mineral ingredient zinc oxide. In addition to landing a spot on numerous "best of" roundups, the sunscreen lists several impressive accreditations on its site, including a top rating by EWG, meeting the Whole Foods Premium Care Requirements, and being a member of the Safe Cosmetics Campaign Compact.

Rachael Ray Every Day: Sustainable Beach Essentials for Summer

The Environmental Working Group rated this as one of the best children’s sunscreens due to its natural ingredients and high level UV protection.

Real Simple: UPF Clothing Is the Sun Protection Your Skin's Been Missing—a Derm Explains How It Works

Even better, UPF is a more reliable form of sun protection than the SPF found in sunscreen, according to the Environmental Working Group. Reprinted by MSNYahoo!In Style

Tap Water Database

Business Insider: 11 terrifying things that could be lurking in your tap water

While the mineral is more commonly consumed through food, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) has determined that around 9 million Americans drink water from public systems with more 300 parts per billion of manganese (the unofficial recommendation set by the EPA). Reprinted by WSBuzz

The Philadelphia Inquirer: Tale of the tap

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit that monitors water quality, said the latest data from 2018 found that Philly’s tap water was in compliance with all federal health-based drinking-water standards, including lead.

PFAS in Tap Water

Business Insider: The earthquakes in southern California were centered near a naval station contaminated with ‘forever chemicals’

But a report from Northeastern University and the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that the water source at the China Lake station contained PFAS levels of 8 million parts per trillion – more than 114,000 times the EPA threshold.

NJ Spotlight: Advocates optimistic about bid to monitor PFAS in water systems

The legislation already has cleared the Senate and is expected to be taken up by the House this week, according to Scott Faber, senior vice president of the Environmental Working Group (EWG).


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