EWG news roundup (8/6): Bipartisan infrastructure deal includes $10 billion to target ‘forever chemicals,’ FDA falls short of banning PFAS in food packaging and more

Over the weekend the bipartisan Senate infrastructure deal was unveiled. It includes $10 billion to clean up the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

“No one should have to worry about the safety of their water,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “This funding represents a historic commitment to finally get PFAS out of our drinking water. The funding proposed in the bipartisan infrastructure bill will provide an important down payment on what’s need to filter PFAS out of the water sent to our homes, schools and businesses.”

A new EWG analysis revealed that the annual Lake Erie algae bloom may pose elevated health risks for the communities that rely on the lake for drinking water, who are primarily people of color and low income.

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration sent a public letter to food manufacturers. It merely reminded them about the unauthorized use of PFAS in food packaging, instead of banning the chemicals.

“Our food should not contain toxic forever chemicals,” said David Andrews, an EWG senior scientist. “Once again, the FDA has put the needs of the chemical and food companies ahead of the needs of the public.”

And finally, EWG broke down how virtual power plants operate. These plants can promote energy equity by ensuring cheap and reliable electricity for low-income communities. They can also act as a valuable weapon in fighting the climate crisis.  

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

Children’s health

Oprah Daily: 14 Best Sunscreen for Kids and Babies, According to Dermatologists

In fact, according to the Environmental Working Group's report on the best sunscreen for kids, "a few blistering sunburns in childhood can double a person’s lifetime chances of developing serious forms of skin cancer."  

Moms: Wireless Radiation At Dangerous Levels To Kids

Exposure to wireless radiation from devices such as cell phones and tablets is at dangerous levels to children. According to peer-reviewed research by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), wireless radiation exposure for kids is hundreds of times higher than the present federal limits, making it very unsafe.

Delicious Living: Kids Skin Health

Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database (ewg.org/skindeep) to see how your sunscreen—and other products—stacks up.

Biden’s Infrastructure Bill

InsideEPA: Senate Infrastructure Bill Includes PFAS, Lead Service Line ‘Down Payments’ (subscription)

“This funding represents a historic commitment to finally get PFAS out of our drinking water. The funding proposed in the bipartisan infrastructure bill will provide an important down payment on what’s need[ed] to filter PFAS out of the water sent to our homes, schools and businesses,” Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group senior vice president for government affairs, said in an Aug. 2 statement.

Michigan Radio: $10 billion in bipartisan infrastructure bill would go to PFAS cleanup

David Andrews is a senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group. He said $10 billion is an incredible investment focused particularly on drinking water.

"This is really a significant amount of funding to make a sizeable dent in terms of addressing what we know are some of the most contaminated sites across the country," he said.

EPA PFAS council

Inside EPA: EPA says PFAS council has completed initial recommendations (subscription)

The announcement met a cool reception from environmentalists, with Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group’s vice president for government affairs, urging the agency to quickly take concrete action on perfluorinated chemicals.

FDA letter to PFAS manufacturers

E&E News: FDA raises alarm over PFAS-tainted food containers (subscription)
The Environmental Working Group similarly panned the letter. In a statement, EWG Senior Scientist David Andrews asserted that FDA should do more to protect consumers. "Our food should not contain toxic forever chemicals," Andrews said. "Once again, the FDA has put the needs of the chemical and food companies ahead of the needs of the public."

Healthy Living Magazine: Fast Foods, Forever

“The letter fails even to promise enforcement action for unauthorized uses of prohibited chemicals,” notes the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Fluorine gas can produce polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) when it is applied to plastic containers. The PFAS then can leach into food, posing health risks.

Food Labeling Modernization Act

Food Navigator: What is 'natural'? Updated Food Labeling Modernization Act wades into one of the most contentious issues in food marketing

Backed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Reports, Environmental Working Group, Gluten Free Watchdog, National Celiac Association, Celiac Disease Foundation, Beyond Celiac, and Gluten Intolerance Group, the bill also would update labeling laws to require Nutrition Facts, ingredient, and allergen information to be displayed for online grocery items.

The Fence Post: Food Labeling Modernization Act introduced in House, Senate

The Food Labeling Modernization Act is supported by Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Reports, Environmental Working Group, Gluten Free Watchdog, National Celiac Association, Celiac Disease Foundation, Beyond Celiac, and Gluten Intolerance Group.

Get Toxic Substances Out of Schools Act

Common Dreams: Markey, Levin, and Bowman Unveil Bill to 'Get Toxic Substances Out of Schools'

The new bill is endorsed by organizations including the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), BlueGreen Alliance, Environmental Working Group, Healthy Schools Network, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, and UndauntedK12.

Department of Defense Inspector General report for PFAS

Military.com: DoD Put Troops and Families at Risk with Slow Response to 'Forever Chemicals,' Report Finds

"Due to the Defense Department's use of firefighting foam containing PFAS chemicals, many service members, military firefighters and their families are still at risk of exposure," Kildee said in a statement released by the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization that tracks PFAS contamination in the U.S.

DOD PFAS Testing Disclosure Act

Sinclair Media Group: Military warns farmers nationwide about PFAS contamination that threatens their livelihood

Scott Faber, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the Environmental Working Group, says the letters fall far short of what the DoD should be doing. "Imagine if your neighbor called and said, 'Hey! I'm going to start sending toxic waste into your backyard, just letting you know'. That's ridiculous right? Shouldn't the Department of Defense be responsible, if they know the irrigation water is contaminated, to clean it up as quickly as possible?" Faber said. Reprinted and aired by 186 Sinclair Broadcast Group affiliate stations.

PFAS Action Act 

Oakdale Leader (Calif.): Harder Votes To Pass New Clean Water Bill

The PFAS Action Act of 2021 will establish a national drinking water standard for select per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that currently impact water systems in Modesto, Lathrop, Sacramento, Stockton and other communities around the Central Valley. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) over 200 million Americans are drinking contaminated water.

Beauty products for Black women

Longevity: Are Black Women’s Hair Products Giving Them Cancer?

According to the Environmental Working Group, one in 12 beauty and personal care products marketed to black women in the US were found to contain highly hazardous ingredients such as lye, parabens, and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives.

Benzene

KETK (Tyler, Texas): POISONED PROTECTION: 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.

Black farmers

Burlington County Times: South Jersey farmers of color demand more from USDA

In fact, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that specializes in agricultural subsidy research, 97% of the $9.2 billion of pandemic bailout funds provided by USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program went to white farmers.

Investigate Midwest: ‘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.

Bug repellents

Market Watch: How to buy a safer and more effective insect repellent

Insect repellents can deter pests from nibbling, biting, stinging and, well, bugging you while you’re outdoors, but some insect repellents are safer than others, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which studies the safety and efficacy of a variety of consumers products. Reprinted by Yahoo! Italy

Live Strong: How Bad Is It Really to Use DEET?

Meet DEET: "DEET is an active ingredient that is used to repel biting insects," says Carla Burns, senior director of cosmetic science at the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Cleaning products

Apartment Therapy: This Is What the Ideal Eco-Friendly Cleaner Looks Like

In 2017, the California state legislature passed the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act, a state law co-sponsored by the Environmental Working Group that requires companies to list known hazardous chemicals in cleaning products on the labels and online.

Consumer guides

C|net: Best full mattress in 2021

If you're looking for a comfortable full-size mattress minus any potentially harmful chemicals, the Avocado Green is the mattress brand for you. It's constructed of cotton, wool and natural latex (or you can opt for the vegan mattress, which is the same sans wool) -- which is the safest combination recommended by the Environmental Working Group. Reprinted by Tech Fish News

Skin Deep® cosmetics database

The Guardian: Fears over lax US standards prompts bill on chemical safety of beauty products

The EWG launched an online database, Skin Deep, in 2004 so consumers could identify personal care products with fewer problematic chemicals. in the beginning the database included about 7,500 products and 7,000 ingredients . Now, it tracks about 74,000 products and just under 9,000 ingredients. Reprinted by Yahoo! News.

Treehugger: What Are Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)? Definition, Examples, and Environmental Concerns

According to the website of the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group of scientists, policy experts, lawyers, and communications and data experts, the United States as a whole is far behind Japan and countries of the European Union in banning harmful chemicals from personal products. 

EWG VERIFIED™: Cosmetics

Bustle: The Best Organic Shampoos To Give Your Hair A Gentle Cleanse

It's also EWG-verified, vegan, and biodegradable, in addition to being free of sulfates, GMOs, parabens, and synthetic dyes and fragrance.

InStyle: This Brand New Clean Mascara Is the Only One That Lengthens My Lashes AND Is Gentle on My Sensitive Eyes

The mascara is completely vegan, cruelty free, and Environmental Working Group-verified.  

Vogue: Is wild skincare the answer to greenwashing?

“Third, look to third parties like The Good Face Project and The Environmental Working Group. Verifications from outside of a company can help increase confidence that a brand is telling you the truth.”  

Farm subsidies

NBC 15 (Madison): Wisconsin ranks 16th in nation for dollars received from USDA subsidies

So how much of this federal money is being given to Wisconsin farmers? 25 years of subsidy data from the Environmental Working Group, or EWG, shows from 2005 to 2020, Texas has received the most USDA taxpayer funded farming subsidies with almost $40B.  

Food Scores

Metro Parent: Which Cereals Have the Most Sugar?

Pulling from that — as well as roundup of the 10 worst children’s cereals, by the Environmental Working Group from 2011 (in 2014, its most recent update, the group noted  it found “not one on the 2011 ‘worst’ list had lowered its sugar content over the last three years”) – we created our own top 10 list of offenders, based on sheer percentages of sugar.

PFAS

Bloomberg Law: Chemours CEO Touts Speed of Progress Cutting, Cleaning Up PFAS

Chemours has shown progress is possible, said Scott Faber, an attorney and vice president at the Environmental Working Group, which has worked on PFAS since 2001.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Editorial - Fracking in Pennsylvania used toxic ‘forever chemicals’ as Pa. officials maintain willful ignorance

According to David Andrews, a chemist and senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, while polytetrafluoroethylene is a relatively stable compound and direct exposure is of low concern, “the real issue” is it “often has contaminants and byproducts in it.”

PFAS industrial discharges map

E&E News: Enviros pan PFAS 'loophole' in Toxics Release Inventory (subscription)

But some are skeptical that the data offers an accurate picture of industrial releases, especially regarding PFAS. The Environmental Working Group has estimated that almost 30,000 industrial facilities may be discharging PFAS — significantly more than the numbers indicated by TRI.

InsideEPA: Environmentalists Say TRI Data Shows Facilities Dodged PFAS Reporting(subscription)

While it stops short of calling EPA’s application of TRI unlawful, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) says the agency has allowed industry to avoid reporting PFAS releases if they make up less than 1 percent of a chemical mixture, a stance it says “is clearly at odds with Congress’s intent” in adding perfluorinated chemicals to the program.

Grist: Congress is finally starting to do something about toxic PFAS 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

The Center Square, New Hampshire: Shaheen seeks PFAS testing on military bases

PFAS compounds have been detected in groundwater on or near more than 300 military bases, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit that tracks the contamination. Military crews used foam containing PFAS to extinguish petroleum fires for decades, the group said. Reprinted by KPVI (Pocatello, Idaho)

The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, Iowa): Miller-Meeks says one thing but does another

The 2nd District cities of Bettendorf and Davenport contain the second highest concentrations nationwide of the human-made chemicals known as PFAS. According to testing commissioned by the Environmental Working Group, the contaminated water does not breakdown and it’s dangerously harmful to our health.

Iowa City Press-Citizen: Letters: On lessons from Surfside building collapse, Miller-Meeks and clean water

The Second District cities of Bettendorf and Davenport contain the second-highest concentrations nationwide of the man-made chemicals known as PFAS.  According to testing commissioned by the Environmental Working Group, the contaminated water does not breakdown and it’s dangerously harmful to our health.

River Bender (Alton, Ill.): Durbin: We Must Protect Communities From “Forever Chemicals” Contamination

“Forever chemicals. It’s a phrase that sounds both ambiguous and ominous,” Durbin said. “The Environmental Working Group has identified more than 1,700 potential sources in my state, from sewage treatment facilities to landfills.”

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

Thrive Global: Arielle Bloom of Navigating Nutrition: “Nourish Your Body with High Quality Foods”

Check the list from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for their updated list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen for produce that should be organic when possible and the produce that doesn’t need to be.

The Health Site: Can’t Afford Organic? Go For These Clean 15 Fruits And Vegetables

In fact, a report by the US Environmental Working Group EWG) said that nearly 70% of non-organic produce sold in the country contains pesticide residues. The EWG's Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables for 2021 (with highest traces of pesticides) include: strawberries; spinach; kale, collard and mustard greens; nectarines; apples; grapes; cherries; peaches; pears; bell and hot peppers; tomatoes; and celery.

EWG Guide to Sunscreens

Time: Almost Every Doctor Recommends Sunscreen. So Why Don't We Know More About Its Safety?

And consumer watchdogs like the Environmental Working Group routinely publish warnings about the potential health risks of sunscreen chemicals like oxybenzone; recently, many have pointed to a 2020 study that found uncertain evidence it could cause thyroid tumors in rats. Reprinted by Yahoo!; MSN

Shape: How to Actually Buy Non-Toxic Sunscreen

To make your life easier, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a sunscreen database so you can look up certain brands to see their impact on your body and the environment.

The Palm Beach Post (Fla.): Sun safety: What you need to know about the sunscreen recall

If you’re thinking of going with a chemical-free sunscreen, the Environmental Working Group, a consumer advocacy organization, issues an annual report about sunscreens.

Tap Water Database

Well + Good: 4 Best Water Pitchers That Filter Out the Not-So-Great Stuff and Leave the Good

The best water filter pitchers will be certified by NSF International or the Water Quality Association, which are independent, third-party organizations that test the efficacy of water filters, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Reprinted by MSN

Wireless radiation study

Life Site News: Wireless radiation exposure for children should be ‘hundreds of times lower’ than FCC limits, environmental group says

A peer-reviewed study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recommends stringent health-based exposure standards for both children and adults for radiofrequency radiation emitted from wireless devices.

Public News Service: Study: Feds Should Lower Kids’ Exposure Limits to Wireless Radiation

Researchers from the Environmental Working Group took methodology developed by the Environmental Protection Agency to assess human health risks from toxic chemicals, and applied it to radiofrequency (RF) radiation from wireless devices, including cellphones, tablets and 5G networks.

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