EWG News and Analysis
The latest from EWG’s staff of experts >>
EWG News Roundup (1/22): Toxic Pesticides That President Biden Should Target, EPA Takes Initial Steps To Regulate PFAS and More
This week, President Joe Biden was sworn into office, which allows a brand-new opportunity to set safeguards to protect children from toxic pesticides. EWG broke down 11 pesticides and classes of pesticides whose use the new administration should target.
On Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it would take preliminary actions to regulate the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS in drinking water. The agency made a final determination to set drinking water limits for PFOA, a PFAS compound once used to make Teflon, and PFOS, a chemical that used to be an ingredient in Scotchgard – which is the first step in the long process of regulation.
“The EPA’s announcement that it will finally regulate PFOA and PFOS in drinking water is long overdue,” said EWG Legislative Attorney Melanie Benesh. “For decades, countless communities drank water with toxic levels of PFOA and PFOS without any recourse from the EPA or responsible polluters.”
“With Richard Glick at the helm of FERC, we expect good things from the commission. His was a voice of reason during the tumultuous Trump years,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “He pushed back against counterproductive market proposals to preserve dirty and uneconomic sources of power on the electric system, takes seriously the threat of the climate crisis and is eager to facilitate rather than disrupt the march toward an electric grid powered by renewable energy.”
Here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.
While I would recommend looking at the labels on your skin care products and avoiding anything potentially hazardous (using the current Natural Home & Garden article, on newsstands now, or the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database as a starting point), one of the most important ingredients to avoid is retinol.
Biden’s PFAS Policy
Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group, called the announcement “long overdue” and pressured the Biden team to act quickly. “While today’s regulatory determination is an important first step in finally getting PFOA and PFOS out of drinking water, affected communities should not have to wait any longer for relief,” Benesh said.
“It’s still not known how broadly these are used elsewhere,” said David Andrews, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, an anti-pollution advocacy organization. “This does seem to be a significant concern and may point to yet another reason why these compounds are found in nearly everyone’s blood in the United States.”
EPA Designation of PFAS as a Hazardous Substance
Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has long pushed for stringent regulation of PFAS, is also critical of the CERCLA ANPRM.
Craig Cox from the Environmental Working Group has thus asked the key question: “If the practices disappear are the credits refunded?” The closer you look at carbon farming, the more it comes to resemble a sweet deal between Big Ag and corporate America to promote a painless and uncertain climate solution while tapping into public money along the way
They offer these links to get additional details: Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice labeling.
Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database
Propyl-paraben and Butylparaben are parabens (preservatives) and endocrine (hormone) disruptors, according to nonprofit Environmental Working Group's (EWG) ingredients database. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reports that, generally speaking, endocrine disruptors are linked to immune, reproductive and developmental health issues.
The company was founded by Into the Gloss cofounder Nick Axelrod and former Estée Lauder executive Randi Christiansen—two people who know a lot about formulating beauty products. The company’s extensive “yes list” and “no list” show all the ingredients it does and doesn’t use, as well as its Environmental Working Group ratings.
Contemporary French soaps, like those featured here, tend to be a little more complex. They may contain added fragrances, the occasional dye, and a preservative or two, though any additives in the soaps included here score low on the EWG scale, so most of them should be safe for use on sensitive skin.
EWG VERIFIED™: Cosmetics
Henry Rose, the new clean beauty line from Michelle Pfeiffer, has created an effective, non-drying solution to keep hands bacteria-free. The ethically formulated, aloe-based hand sanitizer even meets the ethical approval of the EWG and is infused with the signature Jake’s House scent of Neroli and Peony.
A brand embodying this perfectly is Inna Organic. Known for messaging like Clean Beauty. Clean Conscience., they are the FIRST and ONLY BRAND from Taiwan to be both EWG-verified and COSMOS certified-organic.
Food and Farmworkers
Dozens of organizations have opposed the liability shield, including the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Farmworker Association of Florida, and the Environmental Working Group.
Glyphosate on Oats
“Non-GMO certification” is not enough to protect you. For example, oat products can get a non-GMO certification even though they may have been sprayed with glyphosate (RoundUp weed killer). A recent study by Environmental Working Group found that 43 of the 45 samples of oat products tested showed traces of glyphosate.
According to the EWG, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS), a group of chemicals that PFOAs belong to, can be found in the drinking water of many U.S. cities. PFAS enter the environment from Teflon products breaking down in landfills, and from the production of plastic wrappings, water-repellant items, and things like military firefighting foam.
As Melanie Benesh from Environmental Working Group illustrates, “Products disintegrate over time, so if you have something with PFAS on the inside then you may be exposed over time. As it dissolves it gets into household dust, eventually it gets thrown away in a landfill and can leach PFAS and get into the environment that way.”
PFAS in Water
Now a study from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit advocacy organization, reveals a widespread problem: the drinking water of a majority of Americans likely contains “forever chemicals.”
“For decades, the military understood the risks from PFAS in firefighting foam but failed to warn service members or take action to restrict discharges into the environment,” said Melanie Benesh, an attorney for the Environmental Working Group.
A study last year by the national Environmental Working Group found that water from a drinking fountain in a Brunswick County elementary school contained the highest level of PFAS detected in the country.
According to a 2020 study by the Environmental Working Group, PFAS poses a severe threat to drinking water safety.
Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™
I encourage everyone to look at the Environmental Working Group Dirty Dozen list to avoid eating the most pesticide-laden produce by choosing organic. I have had numerous patients who have benefitted from switching to organic foods.
Unfortunately, apples regularly top the Environmental Working Group's dirty dozen list, which lays out the fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide residue each year.
"Strawberries are notorious for being contaminated with pesticide residues," Wong says. "In fact, they've been on the EWG's Dirty Dozen list multiple times, holding the #1 spot for the past 5 years."
Every year the Environmental Working Group publishes a guide to the fruits and vegetables produced with the most amount of pesticides. These are the items, called the “Dirty Dozen,” that nutritionists are more likely to recommend as a priority to buying organic, above others.
Tap Water Database
And nearly any urban area can be prone to stormwater runoff or combined sewer overflows, which can contain rainwater as well as untreated human waste, industrial wastewater, hazardous materials and organic debris. These events are especially common along the East Coast, notes Sydney Evans, a science analyst with the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG, a collaborator on this reporting project).