EWG News and Analysis
The latest from EWG’s staff of experts >>
EWG News Roundup (2/19): Protecting Infants From Heavy Metals in Food, USDA Data Shows Nearly All Covid-19 Bailout Money Went to White Farmers and More
A recent House of Representatives Oversight Committee investigation found toxic heavy metals in baby food, including dangerous levels of mercury, lead, cadmium and arsenic in a number of popular brands. EWG broke down what this means and three steps parents can take to protect their children.
Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced it will revamp the way it assesses toxic chemicals for health risks under the Toxic Substances Control Act, a departure from the Trump administration, which often let political appointees once employed by the chemical industry water down or disregard findings of the agency’s scientists.
“For four years, the Trump EPA cooked the books on deadly chemicals like asbestos and the paint-stripping chemical methylene chloride,” said EWG Legislative Attorney Melanie Benesh. “Today’s announcement shows that the EPA is again going to review chemicals to protect public health, not make things easier for polluters.”
EWG analyzed Department of Agriculture data showing that nearly 97 percent of the billions of dollars in federal farm bailout funds to offset the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic went to white farmers.
In January, Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good was interviewed by TIME, and threw cold water on the prospect of a renewable energy future. EWG detailed how this tracks with the long history of Good and Duke Energy ignoring calls from investors and economists to transition to green energy.
Here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.
Biden’s Agricultural Policy
“These farm subsidies need to be curtailed,” says Anne Schechinger, senior economic analyst at the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit farm and environment watchdog group. “So many Americans are still struggling with the pandemic-induced economic crisis, but farmers are really doing well.”
The agency’s decision to rework the review model was applauded by the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group that was highly critical of the agency’s policies under former President Donald Trump. “Today’s announcement shows that the EPA is again going to review chemicals to protect public health, not make things easier for polluters,” EWG’s Legislative Attorney Melanie Benesh stated in a Feb. 16 release.
But a study by the Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance finds that this waste management system has a significant impact on the nearby residents. And it disproportionately impacts communities of color, who are more likely to live near a CAFO.
"Given the huge concern for reproductive toxicity and birth defects in humans, it really makes sense to take a precautionary approach," Samara Geller, a research analyst for Environmental Working Group (EWG), an advocacy organization that pushes for regulation of chemicals in consumer products, told EHN.
As well, according to the Environmental Working Group, 95% of chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum and include benzene derivatives, such as toluene, which is known to cause urothelial/bladder cancer. Phthalates in fragrances have also been linked to bladder cancer.
Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database
In terms of increasing and instantaneous exposure to environmental and health data, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has come up with an application that consumers can download that will scan their products and give them a score depending on how “clean” they are.
OMV! is specifically targeted to teens and features a serum — because if we need a skincare line for our face, then we need one for our pussies, too. And you’d better believe that it includes “fragrance,” an ingredient that rates a whopping 8 (out of 10) in the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Database.
Why does an ingredient dermatologists recommend for babies have such a bad wrap for being “toxic"? Clean beauty is partly to blame. The EWG or Environmental Working Group ranks petroleum as a “1-4” due to contamination concerns and The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has a post that, without context, would make you think that most petrolatum causes cancer.
Avoid commercially produced personal care products (deodorant, lotion, makeup) are typically filled with hormone-disrupting chemicals—just read the ingredients to figure that out. I always turn to the Environmental Working Group as my go-to resource and always recommend that my clients check out its Skin Deep Cosmetic Database.
The formula also resists clumping and flaking, which is equally important when sporting larger-than-life lashes. It earns top marks from the Environmental Working Group for ingredient safety.
Each ingredient is hand-selected and validated by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for safety–so you never have to worry about what you're putting on your body. The results are worry-free products that enable each and every person to feel good about what they use on their body, without compromise.
EWG VERIFIED™: Cosmetics
A fluoride-free, SLS-free, and EWG-verified toothpaste, with an unbeatable minty-fresh feel. No artificial flavors or sweeteners, here—just peppermint, spearmint, orange peel oil, and stevia for a sensorial brushing experience.
And, amid the noise, Everyone’s careful approach to formulation—it incorporates real essential oils in vegan, cruelty-free and EWG Verified blends manufactured in-house at its facility in San Rafael, Calif.—wasn’t being conveyed to shoppers as much as the brand hoped.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit that has created their own label to further clarify the safety of cosmetics and cleansers to the consumer. One of their standards to earning their label is to fully list all components when the ingredient “fragrance” is listed. Their personal care database lists many beauty, baby, and men’s products that have earned their EWG Verified™ label.
Yet the U.S. government still subsidizes (mostly large) farmers for growing corn. In 2019, for instance, the U.S. taxpayers subsidized corn production to the tune of about $2.7 billion (Environmental Working Group). Since roughly 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop goes to ethanol, that means taxpayers subsidize corn ethanol at over $1 billion per year.
Glyphosate in Oats
In 2018, the Environmental Working Group tested oatmeal products for glyphosate residues (the main ingredient in Roundup weedkiller) and they found up to 340ppb in Nature Valley Crunchy Bars. The cancer arm of the World Health Organization considers glyphosate to be a probable carcinogen - a substance that causes cancer.
The Justice for Black Farmers Act
The National Black Farmers Association and The Environmental Working Group issued a joint statement applauding the legislation. "By providing new oversight and accountability within the USDA, the Justice for Black Farmers Act will address the roots of the USDA's racist history," the statement said in part.
John Boyd, a president of the National Black Farmers Association, and Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, condemned the proposed amendments.
Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health
A vegetarian diet also has carbon pitfalls. The US environmental activist group, Environmental Working Group, produced The Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health. It reported that cheese consumption resulted in 13.5kg-CO2e/kg. CO2equivalent, or CO2e, is the collective term for greenhouse gases and is the amount of CO2 which would have the equivalent impact of global warming.
Nitrate Water Pollution
You can also try entering your zip code on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Tapwater Database—this will give you information on the legal limits of various chemicals and where your local supply may exceed either those, or EWG’s science-based recommended limits.
The rollbacks come on the heels of a troubling report, released in June by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit advocacy organization, which found that the problem of drinking water polluted by nitrates — largely caused by fertilizer and manure runoff from crop fields — is getting worse in much of the U.S.’s farm country.
The current non-binding figure suggested by the EPA is 70 parts per trillion of both chemicals. This is amply disputed by a number of state panels and independent organizations – most notably the Environmental Working Group, which advises for a safe level as low as 1 ppt.
PFAS in Water
"These compounds impact the immune system and cause harm to deliver, really, a wide range of health effects," said David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group. "And the issue is that these chemicals can do that at incredibly low concentrations."
Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™
Foods containing high levels of pesticides have been associated with skin cancer and advanced signs of aging. That's why Goldenberg suggests avoiding foods that are a part of the Environmental Working Group's (EWG's) dirty dozen and likely to contain pesticides.
Also, spend the extra cash on organic produce when you can, especially for berries, grapes, apples, and greens — a 2020 analysis by the Environmental Working Group found that these fruits and veggies have the most pesticide residues.