EWG news roundup (7/23): EWG calls for stricter wireless radiation standards, PFAS legislation advances on Capitol Hill and more

In a study published recently in the journal Environmental Health, EWG scientists recommend stringent health-based exposure standards for children and adults for radiofrequency radiation emitted from wireless devices.

The children’s guideline is the first of its kind and fills a gap left by federal regulators.

The Federal Communications Commission “must consider the latest scientific research, which shows that radiation from these devices can affect health, especially for children,” said Uloma Uche, Ph.D., EWG environmental health science fellow and lead author of the study.

The Senate Armed Services Committee approved an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2022 that would address the testing and cleanup of toxic fluorinated “forever chemicals” known as PFAS at military installations.

“Our service members and military communities living near these polluted bases deserve swift action by the Defense Department,” said Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president for government affairs. “That will take deadlines and that will take greater resources. The Senate still has much work to do but the provisions championed by Sens. Gillibrand, Shaheen and Blumenthal are an important first step.”

EWG also applauded the bipartisan passage of the PFAS Action Act in the House of Representatives this week. The bill, if enacted, would create a national drinking water standard for select PFAS chemicals.

It would also designate PFAS as hazardous substances, which would speed up the cleanup process, limit industrial discharges and provide $200 million annually to water utilities and wastewater treatment facilities.

During the House floor debate over the PFAS Action Act, several lawmakers claimed that the designation would create a de facto ban. EWG broke down how those claims are far from the truth.

Lawmakers in California advanced two bills that would address PFAS contamination of consumer products in their state. Assembly Bill 652 would ban the use of PFAS in a wide range of children’s products and Assembly Bill 1200 would prohibit the use of PFAS in plant-based food packaging.

The bills passed the state Assembly by wide margins and approval by Senate policy committees. Both now await a Senate floor vote.

In other PFAS news from the Golden State this week, regulators at the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment proposed bold new limits for PFAS in drinking water.

And finally, Pacific Gas and Electric told California state regulators that a damaged fuse box from a power line might have been responsible for starting the large Dixie Fire, currently ablaze in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

“PG&E’s rap sheet of manslaughter and mayhem is unmatched among electric utilities in the U.S. and could very well be the cause of more fatalities and property destruction this summer and beyond,” said EWG President and longtime Bay Area resident Ken Cook.

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

Children’s health

Insider: A group of Seattle moms had their breast milk tested, and all of them had 'concerning' levels of toxic 'forever chemicals'

Based on early findings about short-chain PFAS, the new generation of chemicals could be similarly harmful to human health, Dr. Philippe Grandjean, an environmental health expert, recently said at EWG's Inaugural PFAS Conference. 

Seattle Times: Seattle study of breast milk from 50 women finds chemical used in food wrappers, firefighting foam

The chemicals have been widely used in industries across the country and an Environmental Working Group study released last week — based on a review of federal data — identified almost 30,000 sites that potentially discharged PFAS.

California OEHHA public health goals for PFAS in water

Inside EPA: Environmentalists Tout California’s Strict PFAS Goal As Marker For EPA (subscription)

“California’s proposed public health goals confirm that the EPA’s guidelines for PFAS levels in drinking water woefully underestimate the risks to human health,” Olga Naidenko, vice president for science investigations at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), said in a July 22 statement. “We urge the EPA to collect and publish all water results showing PFAS contamination at any level, so Americans across the country can take immediate steps to protect themselves and their families.”

CalMatters: Forever chemicals: California unveils health goals for contaminated drinking water

Nationwide, the drinking water of up to 80 million people is estimated to contain at least 10 nanograms per liter of the two chemicals combined, according to a study by the Environmental Working Group, an environmental group that focuses on toxic substances.

Study on wireless radiation and children’s health

Activist Post: FCC Approves Amazon’s Sleep Tracking Tech; Includes “a radar-wave emitter” Next to Your Bed

Lawsuits have been filed against the agency for NOT protecting the public from unsafe levels of cell phone and WiFi radiation as well as 5G on Earth (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and in space. Earlier this week, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) asked that the agency update it’s “woefully outdated” radiation exposure guidelines.

Johnson & Johnson sunscreen recall

CNN Online: Sunscreen recall: What the finding of a cancer-causing chemical means for you

“There are a lot of theories,” said Scott Faber, the senior vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit consumer health advocacy group which puts out a yearly guide to safe sunscreens. “Benzene could be a byproduct of the process of making the chemicals that companies sell to the formulators of personal care products and sunscreens. Or it could be that some of those chemicals break down into benzene, although that seems less likely,” Faber said.

Yahoo: Johnson & Johnson recalls 5 aerosol sunscreens. Experts urge caution when using spray sunblock.

While the detection of benzene is worrisome, experts say it's not the only reason to think twice about aerosol sunscreens. On its website, the Environmental Working Group — a nonprofit that researches contaminants in consumer products — warns against them.

Chemical News: Cancer-causing chemical benzene found in Johnson & Johnson sunscreen products

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an environmental activist organization, has demanded that the FDA enforce its standards with regards to keeping hazardous chemicals out of everyday products “so that consumers don’t need to rely on independent testing from labs like Valisure,” said David Andrews, an EWG senior scientist.

Everyday Health: Johnson & Johnson Recalls Neutrogena, Aveeno Spray Sunscreens

Given this news, how can you know you’re buying a safe sunscreen? Lamb suggests checking out resources like the Environmental Working Group, which offers a guide to the best, safest sunscreens. Her other tip is to focus on products that align with your values. For example, if you eat an organic diet, opt for organic sunscreen, or if you eat a vegan diet, choose a vegan product.

Newsmax: What You Need to Know Before Buying Sunscreen

The company also notified distributors and retailers to stop selling the sprays and is arranging for the return of the products, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit organization that provides consumers with information on creating a healthy lifestyle and environment.

Maine PFAS policy

Chemical & Engineering News: World’s first ban on products with PFAS adopted in Maine

The law “puts the onus on companies to provide details about where PFAS are being used in products and if those uses are necessary,” David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group, says.

PFAS Action Act

Los Angeles Times: House sets deadline for EPA to limit toxic man-made chemicals in drinking water

Groups that have pushed for regulations praised the vote as a necessary first step in cleaning up a problem that government agencies have known about for decades. The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group, estimates that 200 million Americans in thousands of communities are consuming PFAS in their drinking water.

E&E News: House Democrats set vote on sweeping PFAS bill

Co-sponsored by Michigan Reps. Debbie Dingell, a Democrat, and Fred Upton, a Republican, the bill is among the most significant actions on PFAS likely to be considered this year. In comments made last week at a PFAS-focused conference hosted by the Environmental Working Group, Dingell argued that passing her bill is a matter of urgency. 

Chemical & Engineering News: PFAS targeted in legislation passed by US House of Representatives

The legislation now heads to the Senate, where its chances for passage are unclear. Pressure on lawmakers from constituents in PFAS-tainted areas is increasing, with millions of people living in the nearly 2,800 communities affected thus far, according to the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group. 

Common Dreams: US House Passes Bill to Protect Drinking Water, Environment From Forever Chemicals

An analysis released Tuesday by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) detected forever chemicals in nearly 2,800 communities nationwide, including 2,411 drinking water systems and 238 military installations.

Consumer Reports: Congress Takes Steps to Regulate PFAS in Water

A new analysis published this week by the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization, found that PFAS has been detected in almost 2,800 communities, and previous estimates from the organization indicate that upward of 200 million people may be exposed to water contaminated by PFAS.

Water & Wastes Digest: The House to Vote On PFAS Action Act

At a per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)-focused conference hosted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Dingell said that passing the bill is an urgent matter, reported Environment & Energy Publishing News (E&E News).

Iowa Capital Dispatch: As Congress tries to regulate ‘forever chemicals,’ local water systems push back

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that specializes in research and advocacy work around agriculture, pollutants, and corporate accountability, has found that more than 200 million Americans are drinking water contaminated with PFAS.

PFAS industrial discharge map update

Fox 43 (Harrisburg, Pa.): PFAS report marks hundreds of potential contamination sites in Pennsylvania

The report by nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) identifies industrial sites known or suspected of releasing the chemicals, based on a list of sites recently released by the EPA that are likely to have used PFAS in the manufacturing process.

Missouri Independent: U.S. House To Vote This Week On Expanding Regulations On Toxic Chemicals, Backers Say

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that specializes in research and advocacy work around agriculture, pollutants, and corporate accountability, has found PFAS at 703 military sites around the U.S. and estimates that more than 200 million Americans are drinking water contaminated with the chemicals.

WESA 90.5 (Pittsburgh, Pa.): PFAS Report Identifies Hundreds Of Pennsylvania Manufacturing Sites

Environmental Working Group scientist David Andrews pointed out that the report doesn’t use water samples because nobody has tested them yet. Rather, it focuses on sites the federal government identified as likely to use PFAS in manufacturing processes.

CBS Pittsburgh (Pa.): Study Shows Manufacturers Leaking 'Forever Chemicals'

A report from the Environmental Working Group has found hundreds of manufacturing sites in Pennsylvania may be leaking PFAs.


The Good Men Project: New Research Vindicates Scientist Attacked by Pork Industry Over Environmental Racism Charges

After anerobic digestion (a process by which the waste is placed in tanks and broken down to produce biogas and biofertilizer), the waste is sprayed over fields. Based on geospatial data, the Environmental Working Group reports that more than 250,000 homes in North Carolina are within three miles of a CAFO.

Cleaning products

HGTV: 10 Simple Swaps to Make Your Cleaning Routine Way More Green

Made from 100% essential oils in a fully recyclable post-consumer bottle, your home will smell like a botanical garden — so fresh and so clean! See how your current home product fares over at EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning. PS: Seventh Generation gets an "A" for "lowest concern."

Consumer guides

Medical News Today: 5 air purifiers to consider

The Environmental Working Group states that people should use a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to prevent air filters from emitting ozone. 

Skin Deep® cosmetics database

Real Simple: 5 Things Not to Do at Home When There's an Air Quality Alert in Your Area

And sorry, but doing your nails is off-limits. As the Environmental Working Group explains, both nail polish and nail polish remover can contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and could be harmful to your health.

Living on Earth: Hormone Disrupting PFAS Chemicals in Makeup

And so that really points to access and unequal access, and a lot of the safer products not being accessible to lower income communities, often communities of color. There are some resources, like the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep, the Detox Me app by Silent Spring Institute.

Cover crops report

Mother Jones: The USDA Wants to Make Farms Climate-Friendly. Will It Work?

“More wind, more solar [on farms], that’s going to [have] a really big impact on climate change, rather than trying to sequester carbon in the soil,” says Anne Weir Schechinger, an analyst at the Environmental Working Group (EWG). “The science is not quite there yet on how much those conservation practices can actually sequester.”

Covid-19 relief payments for Black farmers

Public News Service: Lawsuit Over Federal Aid Underscores Barriers for BIPOC Farmers

The Environmental Working Group reported last year, white farmers received nearly 97% of the aid from the USDA's Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Meanwhile, the lawsuit has temporarily halted this year's loan forgiveness efforts approved under the Rescue Plan.

Formaldehyde in cosmetics

NBC Today: Woman alleges Johnson & Johnson OGX shampoo can cause hair loss, sues company

It’s a “formaldehyde releaser” or “formaldehyde donor,” meaning it slowly releases formaldehyde as it breaks down within the product over time, said Carla Burns, senior director of cosmetic science at the Environmental Working Group, a consumer watchdog.

Food additives

Everyday Health: Why Are Some Food Additives That Are Banned In Europe Still Used in the U.S.?

BHT is the chemical cousin to BHA and the two compounds are often used together, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit that works to protect public health. It’s not listed as a carcinogen, but there have been studies where rats fed BHT have developed cancer, and it has been shown to cause developmental effects and thyroid changes in animals, according to a safety report on BHA. 


Eat This, Not That!: Secret Side Effects of Eating Cereal, Says Science

While this feels like a promising addition to your morning meal, a study published by Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that these added minerals can be risky, especially for kids. Over-consuming vitamins, the study surmises, can result in any number of ailments, from the simple, like skin reactions, to the more severe: liver damage, anemia, and even osteoporosis.

Star Tribune (Minn.): Here was a key finding, and the newspaper underplayed it

As the Environmental Working Group’s report states, however, “Glyphosate is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, as probably carcinogenic to people. Glyphosate is also listed on California’s official registry of chemicals known to cause cancer, a designation just upheld by the California Supreme Court.”

Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health

Thrive Global: Sherra Aguirre: “Particularly in low-income neighborhoods”

At the same time I support the efforts of organizations like the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to promote science-based food education and an end to subsidies which fuel the overconsumption of meat and dairy.


HuffPost: 4 Reasons Stovetop Popcorn Will Always Be Better Than Microwaved

Tasha Stoiber, senior scientist at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, told HuffPost: “PFAS is used to make the popcorn bag grease-resistant so oils and grease don’t leak through it. When the popcorn bag is heated, the PFAS from the bag can get transferred to the oils on the popcorn, and then gets into your body when you eat it.” 

Lexblog: Food Industry Regulatory and Litigation Highlights – June 2021

The June 3rd petition was filed by the Environmental Defense Fund, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Defend Our Health, Environmental Working Group, Green Science Policy Institute, Healthy Babies Bright Futures, and the League of Conservation Voters.  Read more about it in our sister blog, Kelley Green Law. 

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

Art of Natural Living: Easy Salmon Florentine

Spinach typically ranks poorly in the Environmental Working Group’s list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables, so go organic if you can. Remember, however, that it’s generally considered better to eat a conventional vegetable than to skip it entirely.

Bay Weekly (Annapolis, Md.): True Food Kitchen Annapolis Opens

While you won’t find any crab dishes on the menu, you will find an emphasis on organic foods like grass-fed beef. “We follow the Enivronmental Working Group’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ recommendations,” says Barone. EWG created a list of the 12 foods that carry the highest burden of pesticides.

The Health Site: How To Reduce Exposure To Pesticides In Fruits, Vegetables

The US Environmental Working Group, in its 'Dirty Dozen' study for 2021 that was released in March, revealed that nearly 70% of non-organic produce sold in the country contains pesticide residues. That being said, a person can choose to buy and consume organic produce. 

EWG Guide to Sunscreens

Beauty 4 Free 2 U: Is Mineral Sunscreen Better Than Chemical Sunscreen And Do We Really Have To Apply Sunscreen Every Day? Why I Have Changed My Mind!

Furthermore, the EWG estimates that, because of inadequate UVA filtering, most sunscreens sold in the U.S. would be too weak for the European market. Laboratory tests of 20 common U.S. sunscreens confirmed these findings: Only 11 of the 20 passed the European UVA test!

Dr. Weil: Homemade Sunscreen?

The Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that advocates for health-protective policies, publishes an annual guide that is an excellent source of information on the chemical compounds in sunscreens and which ones to avoid.

Women.com: 11 Clean Sunscreens To Keep Your Skin Protected & Feeling Confident

We combined our favorite sunscreen brands with recommendations from the Environmental Working Group, which researches sunscreens to ensure that the ingredients are proven to protect your skin. They found that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the best active ingredients for sunscreens, while chemicals like oxybenzone may not be safe.

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