EWG news roundup (8/13): PFAS taints military sites along the Chesapeake Bay, U.S. trailing 80 nations on cosmetic protections, and more

This week, EWG released an analysis based on Department of Defense records finding at least nine military installations along the Chesapeake Bay have groundwater contaminated with high levels of the toxic fluorinated “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

Class action lawsuits have been filed against Johnson & Johnson and Unilever due to potential hair loss tied to DMDM hydantoin, a preservative in shampoos, conditioners and other water-based personal care products. EWG spotlighted what you need to know about DMDM hydantoin and its potential health risks.

When it comes to consumer safety on regulating chemicals and contaminants in cosmetics, the U.S. is trailing behind the rest of the world. More than 80 nations have overtaken the U.S. by enacting rules targeting health risks from the ingredients of cosmetics and personal care products.

A new study finds that the climate crisis is causing U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars in federal crop insurance payouts. EWG’s breakdown of the study highlights its conclusions on the insurance program’s massive financial cost and how it disincentivizes climate action.

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

PFAS compounds in the Chesapeake Bay

Associated Press: Group cites chemical concerns at military sites near bay

The Environmental Working Group’s report focuses on installations along the bay and concerns about contamination mostly from chemicals in firefighting foam containing PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. They are known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment.

Washington Post: Military bases near Chesapeake Bay contaminated with ‘forever chemicals,’ new report warns

The new report from the Environmental Working Group, citing tens of thousands of pages of records obtained from the Defense Department, said that the biggest risk is that the chemicals might have flowed out of the groundwater at military sites in Maryland and Virginia and into the Chesapeake, contaminating the region’s wildlife — including its famed shellfish — affecting the food chain and possibly sickening people.

The Guardian: Water on Chesapeake Bay military bases contains toxic PFAS ‘forever chemicals’

The Environmental Working Group analysis compiled Department of Defense data from nine bases along the bay, revealing levels as high as 2.25 million parts per trillion (ppt). Some states have set safe drinking water levels for individual PFAS compounds as low as 1 ppt.

Military Times: These Mid-Atlantic bases have toxic levels of cancer-linked chemicals, report finds

Hundreds of military installations show unsafe levels of toxic “forever chemicals” in their ground water, including a handful along the Chesapeake Bay, according to a study released Wednesday by the Environmental Working Group.

Food Labeling Modernization Act

The National Law Review: House Bill Would Require FDA to Study and Reassess Chemicals Used in Food

The Food Chemical Reassessment Act of 2021 is endorsed by Environmental Working Group, Environmental Defense Fund, Consumer Reports, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Healthy Babies Bright Futures, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Defend Our Health, and Earthjustice.

Black farmers

Daily Yonder: ‘Most of the Time, It Doesn’t Work Out’: Black Farmers Wait for Debt Relief as White Counterparts Sue

Last year, nearly all the coronavirus aid the Trump administration provided to farmers went to white farmers, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Body burden

Naturopathic Doctor News & Review: A Toxic Start to Life: Counteracting Children’s Unique Vulnerabilities

The Environmental Working Group’s report on umbilical cord toxins explained well why children are so vulnerable.

Carcinogens found in sunscreens

Bloomberg: Sunscreen Concerns Escalate as Another Potential Carcinogen Found

FDA research shows that the body absorbs enough of sunscreens’ chemical ingredients to warrant further testing. Yet there’s no indication companies have provided the safety data the FDA requested two years ago, said David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization.

Consumer guides

MindBodyGreen: 5 Ways Men Can Increase Sperm Count & Why It Matters (Beyond Reproduction)

Look for BPA-free labels on cans and food packaging; make sure you buy furniture without flame retardants or PFAS (newer models typically make it clear on the label); and try to purchase personal care products without phthalates. She personally refers to the Environmental Working Group's consumer guides when choosing household and personal care products (although they do not have a furniture guide yet!).

Cosmetics regulation

NBC News: 13 top-rated K-beauty products for the 10-step skin care routine

This emphasis on skin health is driven by the industry’s data-based innovation, according to Yoon. She explained what defines K-beauty — and what differentiates it from other beauty industries — is this emphasis on research and testing. For example, there are certain government-regulated measures — like these best practices — that are mandatory for Korean companies but voluntary in the U.S., explained Environmental Working Group analyst Melanie Benesh.

EWG VERIFIED™: Cosmetics

Harper’s Bazaar: The 15 Best Setting Powders of All Time

You can snag this vegan and Environmental Working Group–approved mattifying powder—which applies white but seamlessly blends in with your skin-tone—for a rare 15 percent off right now during Beautycounter’s End of Summer Sale.

W Magazine: The Best Eye Creams to Reverse Summer Damage

This EWG-verified eye cream is formulated with a specialized blend of only four ingredients: green coffee seed oil, Sanoma flower oil, Lactobacillus ferment and water using a BioIntact cold emulsion process.

Farm subsidies

California Ag Network: Family Farmer Emergency Fund Provides Drought & Pandemic Relief

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California is already losing four farms per day on average. And despite record-high subsidies for agriculture–driven in large part by efforts to make up for recent trade wars and pandemic relief–a report by the Environmental Working Group shows that over the past few decades, the biggest 20% of farm subsidy recipients claimed over 90% of federal aid and the top 1% claimed more than a quarter.

Dairy Business: Community Alliance for Family Farmers emergency fund for drought and pandemic relief

And despite record-high subsidies for agriculture–driven in large part by efforts to make up for recent trade wars and pandemic relief–a report by the Environmental Working Group shows that over the past few decades, the biggest 20% of farm subsidy recipients claimed over 90% of federal aid and the top 1% claimed more than a quarter.


AgriNews: To Your Good Health: Does oatmeal contain Roundup herbicide?

The Environmental Protection Agency has set a level of 30 parts per million, below which the exposure is considered safe. A 2018 study by the Environmental Working Group found levels of glyphosate in oatmeal breakfast cereals to be between 0.5 and 1 parts per million.


Forbes: If Congress Can’t Clean Public Water Systems, The Trial Lawyers Will

“Forever chemicals” have now been detected in nearly 2,800 communities, including 2,411 drinking water systems and 328 military installations, according to the Environmental Working Group.

PFAS in cosmetics

Washington Post: Is your long-lasting makeup toxic? Study raises concerns about PFAS in cosmetics.

Separately, the Environmental Working Group in June reviewed its Skin Deep database of listed ingredients in cosmetics and found 13 different PFAS compounds used in more than 300 products among more than 50 brands. Teflon or (PTFE), popular in nonstick pans, was found in 200 different products.

PFAS industrial discharges map

Mother Jones: Congress Is Finally Getting Serious About Regulating “Forever Chemicals”

An analysis published by the Environmental Working Group this week found that the number of industrial sites across the United States that use PFAS, and may be releasing it into the environment, is over 41,000.

PFAS in water

ABC News: 'Ticking time bomb': PFAS chemicals in drinking water alarm scientists over health risks

Some level of PFAS, widely known as "forever chemicals" because they do not break down in the environment, have been found in water samples of 2,790 communities across 49 states, according to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), an independent research and consumer watchdog organization pushing to limit exposure to chemicals through water, food and household products.

Great Lakes Now: PFAS News Roundup: Tech company develops PFAS-eliminating technology, PFAS Action Act heads to Senate, study finds PFAS in Arctic ice

So-called toxic “forever chemicals” are a concern across the United States. A recent analysis by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group found nearly 30,000 sites where man-made perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are likely used or discharged into water.

Seafood Guide

Medical News Today: Can we eat fish sustainably and maintain health benefits?

In the U.S., the Washington-based Environmental Working Group (EWG) goes further, giving a regularly updated list of fish that are both healthy — in terms of contaminant levels — and sustainable. Similar information is listed on the U.S. government’s Fishwatch.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

Prevention: 6 Natural Ways to Use Apples, From DIY Essential Oil to Antioxidant-Rich Smoothies

Tip: Try to use organic apples for these recipes because regular apples tend to be toward the top of the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of produce with the most pesticides.

Clean Eating Magazine: Are These Chemicals Making You Fat?

Always choose organic versions of these: strawberries, kale and leafy greens, nectarines, apples, grapes, cherries, peaches, pears, peppers, celery and tomatoes. For more information, check out the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” checklist.

Montgomery County News (Texas): Suggestions For Mindful Eating: French Fries

The problem is I’ve become super sensitive to the fact that potatoes are on the dirty dozen list. If you are not familiar with that it is a list made up by EWG containing the top 12 foods, they consider most contaminated by pesticides and therefore most important to buy organic.

Skin Deep® cosmetics database

EcoWatch: 7 All-Natural Soaps Safe for Your Skin and the Planet

This formula of this body gel also meets the Environmental Working Group's strict criteria for ingredients, transparency and health.

The List: Natural Mascaras That Actually Work

Unlike food and medicine, there's no governing body that inspects the safety of cosmetics or personal care products (via Environmental Working Group). And the United States is comparatively lax about what chemicals are allowed to be used in makeup — only 11 chemicals have been banned, compared to over 1,300 in the European Union (via The Guardian).

The List: Why You Should Never Use A Two-In-One Sunscreen And Bug Repellant Product

In order to ensure you are choosing the least toxic formulations of both sunscreen and bug repellent, we recommend taking a look at the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep application. 

Sixty + Me: Tips To Make Our Lips Look Fuller and More Uplifted (Video)

EWG is the Environmental Working Group and if the name of almost any product is entered, there will be a rating for that product on a scale of “safe” to 10.

Thrive Global: Prudence Millsap of Beauty by Earth: “Don’t let perfect get in the way of possible”

For instance, we don’t Greenwash — meaning we truly use the best organic and natural ingredients in our products and that becomes quite plain when you look at our product’s ratings on EWG (Environmental Working Group).

KTSM (Tyler, Texas): Could dangerous chemicals be lurking in your hand sanitizer?

And the chief scientist at the Environmental Working Group tells us with products that are re-applied like hand sanitizer, consumers could be exposing themselves several times a day.

“So it seems pretty straightforward from a public health perspective. These are products that shouldn’t be on the market,” said Senior Scientist at Environmental Working Group David Andrews.

EWG Guide to Sunscreens

Better Nutrition: What You Need to Know About the Aveeno and Neutrogena Sunscreen Recall

Jessica Tran, ND, FAAEM, MBA, the first naturopathic doctor to serve as president of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) advises following the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) recommendations for sunscreen. “Look for a product with a favorable EWG rating.

The List: Why Sunscreens With Higher SPF Levels Can Be Misleading

While higher SPF counts may look like the best option when it comes to finding an effective sunscreen, don't be fooled by the marketing jargon on the front of the bottle. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), SPF numbers can be misleading when it comes to the amount of protection they provide.

The Skincare Edit: How to Choose a Sunscreen: The Best and Worst Sunscreen Ingredients for Your Skin

According to the Environmental Working Group's latest report, 75 percent of the sunscreens currently on the market offer inferior protection or contain worrisome ingredients.

CBS Miami: New Report Finds Harmful Ingredients In Sunscreens

“There are safer products available now in more mainstream stores,” explained Nneka Leiba with the Environmental Working Group. She also pays attention to what’s in the sunscreen. Her team evaluated more than 18-hundred different products and found just 25% met the group’s standards.

Tap Water Database

Augusta Free Press (Va.): Overview of tap quality in Augusta County

In five years between 2012 and 2017, drinking water quality tests were conducted at 21 utilities across different cities of Augusta County. The reports were picked up by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), indicating that various contaminants were detected.

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