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EWG News Roundup (2/21): EPA (Finally) Moves To Regulate PFAS, Toxic Algae Poses Airborne Risks and More

In the News
Friday, February 21, 2020

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it had finally begun working toward setting legal limits for two fluorinated chemicals, or PFAS, in drinking water. The agency is proposing a “regulatory determination” to set a national drinking water standard for two of the most notorious PFAS chemicals – PFOA and PFOS.

EPA has wasted decades deciding whether to regulate PFAS – and they could take many more years before a drinking water standard is finalized,” said EWG Legislative Attorney Melanie Benesh. “But today’s decision shows that an avalanche of public pressure and overwhelming science is finally forcing EPA to act.”

Recent Sierra Club testing has shown high levels of PFAS in a brand of menstrual underwear called Thinx that advertises itself as "Organic Cotton Underwear." The testing showed high levels of total fluorine – a strong indication of PFAS contamination.

In honor of Cancer Prevention Awareness month, EWG invited co-founder of the Anticancer Lifestyle Program and EWG board member Meg Hirshberg to share her first-hand experience of lifestyle change following treatment for cancer.

A recent study in the journal Harmful Algae raises concerns about airborne exposure to toxic algae blooms. Testing found the presence of microcystin, an extremely toxic type of bacteria produced by eruptions of blue-green algae, in the nasal passages of almost all of the study’s participants.

Lawmakers in California introduced bills this week that would ban PFAS from firefighting foam and expand state water testing for all PFAS chemicals.

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

Children’s Health

Beauty Independent: Four Moms Join Forces To Create Skincare Brand Stryke Club For Boys

Stryke Club’s cruelty-free formulas steer clear of parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and benzoyl peroxide, and the ingredients in its Face First and Everywhere Wash decks score low in the Environmental Working Group’s toxicity rankings.

The Strategist: The Best Baby-Friendly Cleaning Products, According to Experts

“This cleaner has a light, fresh smell and is effective at cleaning most things around the house,” she says. “It has very few ingredients and the ones that are rated the lowest by the Environmental Working Group.” 

Healthline: Common Cleaning Products May Put Infants at Risk for Asthma

According to research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), 53 percent of cleaning products they assessed contained ingredients known to harm the lungs.

California PFAS Testing Bill

Inside EPA: California Bill Requires Expanded Testing For PFAS Chemicals In Water

SB 1056 is co-sponsored by Clean Water Action, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

EPA Pesticide Rule Changes

Citizen Truth: EPA Proposes Changed To Rule Protecting People From Pesticides

study published earlier this month by the Environmental Working Group expanded on the consequences of the Trump administration’s pesticide policies, finding that the EPA has largely failed to enforce the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), which placed strict regulations on the permissible amount of pesticides in food.

EPA Regulation of PFAS in Drinking Water

Associated Press: EPA will regulate two toxic chemicals in drinking water

“It’s decades too late but it’s better late than never,” Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group’s senior vice president for government affairs, said in a statement. “It could still take years — if ever — for EPA to issue a final standard. But it’s a step in the right the direction, and it would not have happened but for a bipartisan sense of outrage.” Reprinted by The San Diego Union-TribuneFort Worth Star-Telegram (Texas)Bradenton Herald (Fla.)The OklahomanSun Herald (Gulfport, Miss.)The New York Times; 100+ other media outlets

Bloomberg Environment: EPA Closer to Regulating PFAS in Drinking Water

But Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, linked the agency’s preliminary decision to pressure from Congress and “an avalanche of public pressure and overwhelming science.”

The Hill: EPA moves to limit financial pressure on ‘forever chemical’ manufacturers under clean up law

Melanie Benesh, an attorney with the Environmental Working Group, which tracks PFAS contamination, said the move is part of an unfortunate trend in which the government seeks funds only after there is a problem.

The Hill: Overnight Energy: EPA to regulate ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water | Trump budget calls for slashing funds for climate science centers | House Dems urge banks not to fund drilling in Arctic refuge

"Today's decision shows that an avalanche of public pressure and overwhelming science is finally forcing EPA to act," Melanie Benesh with the Environmental Working Group said in a statement. Reprinted by Daily Kos

E+E News: EPA to set drinking water standards for 2 toxins (subscription)

"We could be many years away," said Scott Faber, senior vice president for governmental affairs at the Environmental Working Group. "What remains unanswered is how protective that drinking water standard will be."

Inside EPA: In Rare Step, EPA Proposes To Craft SDWA Limits For PFOA, PFOS

EPA’s proposal drew a measured reaction from environmentalists, with Environmental Working Group Legislative Attorney Melanie Benesh saying in a Feb. 20 statement that the preliminary determination “shows that an avalanche of public pressure and overwhelming science is finally forcing EPA to act.”

Miami Herald: Environmental agency proposes to regulate ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

Advocacy groups like the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy nonprofit, and health advocates consider that threshold too high to be considered safe, and 10 states have implemented or are preparing to implement their own standards. Reprinted by Bradenton Herald (Fla.)

NJ Spotlight: EPA Makes Long-Awaited Start to Setting Health Limits for Two PFAS Chemicals

The northern New Jersey suburbs of New York City showed some of the highest levels of PFAS contamination in a national study of tap water in 44 locations nationwide, according to a report last year by Environmental Working Group, a leading national advocate for PFAS regulation. Reprinted by WHYY PBS

Common Dreams: 'Avalanche of Public Pressure' Forces Trump's EPA to Regulate PFAS, But Water Safety Experts Warn of More Delays

"EPA has wasted decades deciding whether to regulate PFAS," said EWG legislative attorney Melanie Benesh. "Today's decision shows that an avalanche of public pressure and overwhelming science is finally forcing EPA to act."

Trump Administration Farm Bailouts

The Christian Science Monitor: First a trade war. Now coronavirus. The roller coaster life of a US farmer.

Senate Democrats and the Environmental Working Group have criticized MFP because the bulk of the subsidies went to the biggest farms. Reprinted by Yahoo!

Algae Blooms

Maritime Cyprus: Infographic: The Impact of Global Warming on Water

 A 2018 report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that algal blooms are becoming more common and more intense, and that’s bad news for our waterways and our health.


The Citizens’ Voice: With little oversight, asbestos issues challenge Pa. schools

Though the report came out five years ago, nothing has changed, said Alex Formuzis, a senior vice president for the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.

The Scranton Times-Tribune (Pa.): With little oversight, asbestos issues challenge schools statewide

… said Alex Formuzis, a senior vice president for the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. Reprinted by Standard-Speaker (Hazleton, Pa.)Huntingdon Daily News (Pa.)

Cell Phones

Activist Post: EPA Isn’t Allowed To Do Anything About Effects of Electromagnetic Pollution From Cell Phones And Wifi

Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently offered a one-year fellowship to study effects of EMF exposure on the public.  

Cleaning Products

Collective Evolution: A Simple Recipe For A Homemade Non-Toxic Fabric Softener

According to the Environmental Working Group, fabric softeners contain chemicals and fragrances that can cause skin irritation and respiratory irritation. Reprinted by Get HealthyBefore It’s News

The Strategist: The Best Natural Cleaning Products, According to Experts

Jen Brady, chief green mama at Green Baby Deals, also suggests Ecover dish soap, saying that it scores an “A” on the Environmental Working Group, a green resource for consumers, and is gentle on hands but tough on dishes.

Women’s Health: The 27 Best Natural Cleaning Products Of 2020, According To Experts

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an activist organization that specializes in research and advocacy around the chemicals you encounter in your everyday life, argues that some cleaning products contain compounds linked to an increased risk for asthma and other more serious conditions. Reprinted by Head Topics


InStyle: 13 New Fragrances That Smell Like Spring

From Tom Ford's classic and chic rose perfume to Henry Rose's clean, EWG-verified, woodsy floral, these are the 13 best new fragrances to wear this spring. Reprinted by Yahoo!

Who What Wear: I Wore a Different Perfume Every Day for a Month—These 10 Earned Me Compliments

It's gorgeous, and like all of Henry Rose's fragrances, it's verified by the Environmental Working Group and certified by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. Reprinted by Yahoo!Outfits Design

The Zoe Report: Does Natural Deodorant Work? Here’s Why You Should Find Out

The name says it all: with a formula certified by the Environmental Working Group, this is a deodorant you don’t have to worry about.

Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database

The Washington Post: The biggest cosmetics health risk? User error.

If you are worried about the chemicals in cosmetics, consult the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, which rates specific cosmetics on their chemical content.

Reader’s Digest Best Health: 12 Toxic Ingredients That Can Be Found in Beauty Products

The problem is that exposure to high levels of this chemical could lead to respiratory problems, as well as kidney and liver damage, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

The Chalkboard: A Thyroid Expert Weighs In: 7 Ways to Deal with Estrogen Dominance

The Environmental Working Group provides guides for many of these products, including their Skin Deep® guide to choose the best cosmetics. 

Full Measure with Sharyl Atkinson: Toxic Products

Melanie Benesh of the Environmental Working Group says there's no category of consumer products that are less regulated than the soaps, lotions and makeup we use every day.

Dark Waters Movie

Michigan Live: See the movie ‘Dark Waters’ for free in Bay City and hear from U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee

The showing is a part of a partnership between Kildee, D-Flint, and the Environmental Working Group. 

Duke Energy

The Times-News (Burlington, N.C.): Column: The case against Duke Energy’s proposed rate hike

The Environmental Working Group reports that “dirty coal-fired plants and risky nuclear reactors generate almost 70 percent of Duke’s electricity, far above the national share of 50 percent.” 

EWG’s Healthy Living App

Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa): ‘Overload’ reveals toxins in, around us

She uses the Environmental Working Group’s phone app called Healthy Living to help guide her purchases with scientific and academic data to create ratings for the toxicity of products on store shelves.

Food Scores

EveryGirl: Do Those Celebrity-Endorsed Hair Vitamins Actually Work? Experts Weigh In on This Tricky Topic

FD&C Red 40, according to the Environmental Working Group, is a synthetic dye produced from petroleum, and is approved by the FDA to be used in food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic products. 


Green Matters: What Foods Have Glyphosate?

The Environmental Working Group reported in 2019 that widespread glyphosate contamination affected breakfast cereals, oat products, pasta, crackers, chickpea flour, pizza, and lentils.

Palm Beach Daily News (Fla.): Coontie, Florida’s only native cycad, wins National award from GCA

It has been linked to Autism, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, ALS, Leukemia and other cancers. In 2018, EWG tests revealed shockingly high levels of glyphosate in oat-based cereals.

Kellogg’s Phase-Out of Glyphosate

High Plains Journal (Dodge City, Kan.): Kellogg to phase out glyphosate from supply chain

In June, the Environmental Working Group said it had found evidence of glyphosate residues in popular breakfast foods. Reprinted by United States Supply Chain Management Council

Meat Eaters Guide to Climate Change + Health

The Spinoff: Should vegetarians bite the bullet and go vegan? Let’s weigh up the evidence

Research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2011 found that cheese can also be a high-emission food. 

New PFAS Testing Report 

The Columbus Dispatch: How to find a water filter that reduces ‘forever chemicals’

At least 16.4 parts per trillion of nine different forever chemicals were found recently in Columbus’ drinking water, according to the Environmental Working Group, or EWG, a nonprofit, nonpartisan environmental group that conducted the study. Reprinted by IndeOnline (Massillon, Ohio)

Bridge: Fact Squad | Ad touts Elissa Slotkin’s work fighting PFAS chemicals

But it neglects to mention a crucial caveat: A study by the Environmental Working Group that made that declaration made clear that is only because Michigan has a more aggressive testing program than other states.

Living on Earth: PFAS Chemicals Likely in All Major Water Supplies

David Andrews of the Environmental Working Group joins Host Bobby Bascomb to discuss the recent findings and the concerns for human health.

Santa Barbara Independent (Calif.): Santa Barbara Airport Tests Clean for Fire-Fighting Foam Contaminants

In Santa Barbara County, water wells in Goleta and Santa Maria and on Vandenberg Air Force Base were identified on an Environmental Working Group (EWG) map as potentially contaminated with the per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, a k a PFAS, from foams developed to fight liquid-based fires, like kerosene or jet-fuel fires.

Star News (Wilmington, N.C.): A look at some PFAS found in Brunswick, New Hanover water

The issue was brought back to national attention in January when the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report comparing PFAS levels across the country. 

Star News (Wilmington, N.C.): 6 ways to learn more about water quality

This research and advocacy organization has organized information about PFAS into an online guide that can be found at https://www.ewg.org/pfaschemicals/.

Water Quality Products: PFAS Testing of Ohio River Underway

In Louisville, Kentucky, researchers detected three PFAS compounds at two different water treatment plants, reported WFPL. The Louisville Water Company and the Environmental Working Group also detected PFAS compounds at lower levels in Louisville’s drinking water.

WHQR (Wilmington, N.C.): Primary 2020: Overcrowding, Teacher Pay Are Concerns for Brunswick Board of Education Candidates

Last month, a nationwide study by the Environmental Working Group found that Belville Elementary School’s drinking water contained the highest concentration of PFAS out of all tested locations. 

WRAL (Raleigh, N.C.): Actor turns spotlight on contaminated water

North Carolina still has the highest levels of PFAS contamination in the country. In a study released last month by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, Brunswick County had the highest level of PFAS in its water of any area tested in 31 states – 86 parts per trillion, which is above the upper limit of 70 set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Nitrate in Minnesota Tap Water

Bluestem Prairie (greater Minn. and S.D.): Check out MN water nitrate presentations Paul Torkelson didn’t want hared with subcommittee

A month ago, Fox 9's Tim Blotz reported Report: Potentially dangerous nitrate levels found in some Minnesota drinking water. The study was released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

USA Today: Grocery shopping: 20 signs you may be spending too much money at the supermarket

According to the Environmental Working Group, strawberries, spinach, and kale are among the worst offenders, so it's worth spending the extra bucks to get those in their organic form. Reprinted by USA Today affiliates

Los Angeles Loyolan: Wash your fruit and watch your pesticides

Dr. Almstedt was referring to the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables according to the Environmental Working Group, which ranks strawberries first — one of the most common fruits in American households. 

Collective Evolution: Study: Baking Soda Can Remove Large Amounts of Pesticide Residue From Fruits & Vegetables

Perhaps we even follow the advice given by the Environmental Working Group’s “Clean Fifteen” and “Dirty Dozen” program. Reprinted by Before It’s NewsGet Healthy

Tap Water Database

Pulitzer Center (supported by Time): America’s Clean Water Crisis Goes Far Beyond Flint. There’s No Relief in Sight

“Legal standards are often compromises between what the data shows in terms of toxicity and risk, and how much it’s going to cost,” says Alexis Temkin, a toxicologist at the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization. Reprinted by Time

Real Simple: Amazon Shoppers Say This $35 Shower Filter Is the Secret to Healthy Hair and Skin

Those who live in areas with hard water found it especially helpful (you can learn more about your area’s water through the Environmental Working Group’s tap water database). 

All On Georgia: Group lists Summerville water as ‘contaminated’

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its annual report which indicates a presence of harmful contaminants in the Georgia water supply that can cause cancer, developmental issues in children, problems in pregnancy and other serious health conditions.


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