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EWG News Roundup (2/5): Investigation Finds Toxic Heavy Metals in Baby Food, the Recent History of USDA Discrimination Against Black Farmers and More

In the News
Friday, February 5, 2021

On Thursday, a congressional investigation revealed it had found that a number of widely sold baby food brands are tainted with dangerous levels of toxic heavy metals, including arseniclead, cadmium and mercury.

The investigation, led by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), chair of the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, highlights major failures within the Food and Drug Administration.

“This is what happens when you let the food and chemical companies, not the FDA, decide whether our food is safe to eat,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “For too long, the FDA has allowed food and chemical companies to exploit loopholes to fill our food with ‘forever chemicals,’ jet fuel and toxic metals like lead and arsenic. The Biden administration should immediately direct the FDA to follow the law and protect our families from these poisons.”

President Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, testified in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee this week. EWG applauded Vilsack’s recognition that much more needs to be done to address the needs of Black farmers and the climate crisis.

Prior to Vilsack’s confirmation hearing, EWG documented the past 100 years of USDA discrimination against Black farmers.

In a recent article published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, more than a dozen scientists, including EWG’s Senior Scientist David Andrews, make the case that the toxic fluorinated “forever chemicals” known as PFAS should not be regulated one by one but as a class.

And finally, Toyota and a handful of other car manufacturers dropped their support of the Trump administration’s legal fight to block California from implementing stringent tailpipe emissions standards.

“This decision is welcome news, but Americans should never forget how these companies fought tooth and nail alongside Trump in trying to block California and other states from setting emissions standards to protect public health and combat the climate crisis,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “After the election, they had no choice but to abandon Trump’s sinking ship and scramble to get on board the accelerating move toward a zero-emissions future.”

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

Children’s Health

E&E News: Congressional inquiry finds toxic metals in baby food

Environmental Working Group Senior Vice President Scott Faber said the report underscores FDA's "failure to protect consumers, including babies, from the chemicals and contaminants that are in our food."

Common Dreams: Congressional Report Reveals Manufacturers 'Knowingly' Sold Toxin-Tainted Baby Food

Scott Farber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, said that "this is yet another example of the Food and Drug Administration's failure to protect our families from the chemicals and contaminants in food." "This is what happens," Farber added, "when you let the food and chemical companies, not the FDA, decide whether our food is safe to eat."

Biden’s Agricultural Policy

Politico: Trump left Biden a $30 billion fund used for trade wars. Biden has other plans for it.

Trump’s Agriculture secretary, Sonny Perdue, “certainly took the training wheels off,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, a human health and environment nonprofit. 

Biden Administration: PFAS Policy

Chemical & Engineering News: Biden and Harris look to restore science to US governance

In another last-minute action under Trump, the EPA formally asked for public comment on whether the agency should list some PFAS as hazardous substances. Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization, faulted this move because it delays the regulatory process for making the designations.

Biden Administration: Vilsack Pick for Secretary of Agriculture

The Washington Post: USDA Secretary of Agriculture nominee Tom Vilsack clears first hurdle, says he will focus on climate change

Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, cautions Vilsack and the Biden administration against rushing headlong into a carbon-credit market.

Biden Administration: Michael Regan for EPA Administrator

E&E News: Regan faces lawmaker pressure on PFAS, plastics

Advocates signaled early support for Regan's comments. Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, said Regan's remarks about looking into drinking water standards came as "good news," and applauded the nominee's subsequent comments.

Agricultural Water Pollution

SouthernMinn: Bipartisan effort could reduce pollution in state's lakes, rivers

A Minnesota-specific report issued last year by the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, which has an office in the state, made the case that much of the environmental damage in recent years is attributable to feedlots. 

Carbon Farming

Successful Farming: How Carbon May Become Another Crop for Farmers

Strategies like no-till coupled with cover crops can build soil carbon levels that help soils better blunt weather extremes like drought and flooding, says Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources for the Environmental Working Group. Whether carbon stays sequestered is another matter, he says. 

Climate Change

Des Moines Register: 81% of Iowa farmers say climate change is occurring, but only 18% see human activities driving it, ISU poll finds

“I think it’s good news that farmers are recognizing that weather is getting more dangerous, and that it’s imperative that they begin to take action to protect their farms,” said Craig Cox, the Environmental Working Group’s senior vice president on agriculture and natural resources policies. 

Cleaners

Healthline: How to Disinfect a Vehicle Interior Without Damaging Surfaces

Groups like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publish annual reports on organic and natural cleaning products with rankings from best to worst. We also considered cleaners certified with the Green Seal, which are greener and healthier products.

Missoula Current: Sustainable Missoula: What you should know about safer disinfecting

A great resource to find safer cleaners is the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning, a database that rates the safety of the ingredients used in over 2500 cleaning products.

Cosmetics – Skin Deep

Everyday Health: Clean Beauty 101: A Comprehensive Guide

Concern is growing among consumers and professionals that many ingredients used in skin-care products may affect our health. As the Environmental Working Group (EWG) points out, people use about 10 personal-care products a day, amounting to 126 different ingredients.

Mom Knows Best: The 14 Best Valentines Gifts For The Family

This vegan cream is made with natural ingredients and contains No Parabens, Gluten, PABA, Sulfates, Phthalates, Dyes, Silicone, or Fragrance. Environmental Working Group (EWG) rates this night cream a low hazard which is the best rating achievable.

Mother Earth News: Homemade Bath Products: Shampoo, Deodorant and Toothpaste

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) has been covering this issue for more than a decade, and the organization explains that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the personal care products industry to police itself through the industry’s own Cosmetics Ingredient Review panel.

EWG VERIFIED™: Cosmetics

Big World Tale: What Makes a Fragrance "Clean?"

When Michelle Pfeiffer launched Henry Rose in 2019, it was the first EWG-verified luxury perfume brand. The actress discloses 100% of the collection's ingredients and uses sustainably-sourced, recyclable materials for its bottles and packaging.

Document Journal: Michelle Pfeiffer on her clean beauty crusade

Right after my kids were born around 27 years ago, I started paying more attention to what was in the products that I was exposing my kids and myself to and, at that time, there just wasn’t a lot of information to be found. And one day, after years of stressing about that I stumbled upon the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, and that’s where they rate personal care products by hazard level.

KNBC-TV (Los Angeles): Today in LA at 5am

And it's verified clean by the environmental working group so it's and suitable for most skin types.

Glyphosate

Before It's News: Tests Found Levels Of Glyphosate Weedkiller In Hummus

The Environmental Working Group had recently commissioned an independent laboratory test. The test was conducted to detect the presence of the notorious weedkiller in hummus. The test results found glyphosate in over 80% of the non-organic hummus and other chickpea samples. Apart from the non-organic hummus containing weedkiller, several organic versions also revealed small amounts of weedkiller present in them.

GMO’s

Oil and Fats International: Countdown to comply with GMO food-labelling rule begins

As many as one of every six foods containing GMOs could be exempt from labelling due to loopholes in the USDA regulations, Agriculture reported the Environmental Working Group as saying.

Nitrate in Tap Water

Eat Drink Sleep: Making 2021 The Year of Water And Human Wellbeing

In the USA, a study published in the journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment in October 2020 concluded that water contamination by nitrates is now a public health risk. The researchers, affiliated with the organizations Clean Wisconsin and the Environmental Working Group, pointed out that nitrate exposure may be behind many cancer cases and poor birth outcomes in Wisconsin every year. Nitrates are used in many fertilizers and are found in soil and groundwater almost everywhere farming is practiced.

PFAS

Undark: Despite Ramp Up, Vaccine Rollout Remains Patchy

Due to widespread use in consumer products including food packaging and textiles, PFASs are also found in the bodies of most of the general population. But firefighters, Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, told The Times, “are disproportionately exposed, on top of all that.”

Inside EPA: Bipartisan Group Pushes Biden For Quick PFAS Rules But Also Readies Bill

“According to the Environmental Working Group, more than 200 million Americans likely have drinking water and food contaminated with PFAS chemicals,” the lawmakers say. “Nevertheless, [EPA], Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Defense (DOD) have been slow to address the risks posed by PFAS. There are currently no limits on PFAS releases and uses and no requirement to clean up PFAS contamination.” 

Chemical & Engineering News: Solvay withheld PFAS toxicity data, group claims

In a Jan. 26 petition, the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an advocacy organization, claims that Solvay violated reporting requirements under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) by waiting more than 5 years to notify the EPA about potential risks to human health and the environment posed by chloroperfluoropolyether carboxylates.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Civil Eats: Beyond Bees, Neonics Damage Ecosystems—and a Push for Policy Change Is Coming

One 2015 survey found that half of the U.S. population over three was exposed to neonics, and a 2018 Environmental Working Group analysis found residues of at least one of the three most common neonics on more than half of the potatoes, spinach, and lettuce the group tested.

Eat This, Not That: One Surprising Side Effect of Eating Apples, According to Science

You should also opt for organic apples whenever possible. (And it's not just because the Environmental Working Group has consistently found that apples are more likely to be tainted with pesticides than other fresh fruit and vegetables.) 

Sunscreens

Fortune: Jessica Alba’s Honest Company Valued At $1.7 billion

The company responded via a blogpost that the product in question went through rigorous testing. We’ve gone through extensive third-party testing in accordance with government regulations and our Sunscreen Lotion passed all SPF 30 testing requirements. It also received the best score possible from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). We care about taking every precaution possible to ensure that your product experience will keep you healthy and happy. 

Elite Daily: The 5 Best Sunscreen Sticks

This was the first sunscreen to fulfill Whole Foods Premium Care guidelines, and its highly rated by the EWG as well. This is another 100% physical sunscreen that's highly rated by the EWG, and it's vegan as well.

 

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