EWG news roundup (11/19): Congress moves to tackle PFAS in firefighting foam and food packaging, tips for a healthy Thanksgiving and more

On Friday, the House of Representative passed the Build Back Better bill, which includes $95 million for local fire departments to purchase firefighting foam and gear made without the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

Earlier in the week, the bipartisan Keep Food Containers Safe from PFAS Act was introduced in both the Senate and House. If passed, the bill would ban PFAS from food packaging.

“Food is likely a significant source of exposure to these dangerous chemicals for millions of Americans,” said EWG senior scientist David Andrews, Ph.D. “PFAS in the environment can contaminate crops and accumulate in fish and meat, but they also leach into food from food packaging.”

EWG broke down a recent study that found industrial facilities across the country could be unwittingly burning the Pentagon’s legacy PFAS-based firefighting foam. The Department of Defense, in a rush to destroy its stockpiles of the foam, has recently exploited a loophole that allows it to dispose of its PFAS waste through a process called fuel blending.

In a paper released this week, the Environmental Protection Agency found that PFAS chemicals are more toxic than previously thought. The agency announced that safe levels of exposure to PFAS should be thousands of times lower than limits it first proposed in 2016.

“It’s long past time for the EPA to act,” said Robert Bilott, PFAS attorney and author. “Today’s announcement confirms what we have known for decades – that very low levels of PFAS can pose serious health risks, including cancer.”

And finally, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, EWG is providing tips to make your turkey day as healthy as possible.

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

Children’s health 

Raising Arizona Kids: Ask a pediatrician: 17 tips on feeding Babies and Children 

Other great resources include Nourish Your Tribe by Nicole Magryta, MBA, RDN and the Environmental Working Group Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen the top twelve fruits and vegetables that have the most pesticides and the top fifteen that have the least. 

EPA draft reports on forever chemicals

Inside EPA: EPA Finds Adverse PFAS Effects At Low Levels, Setting Path For Strict Rules

EPA noted in its GenX assessment that the figures it set for PFOA and PFOS in 2016 are subject to change because the agency is reviewing them. “That’s pretty telling,” David Andrews, a senior scientist with Environmental Working Group (EWG), said of the GenX assessment. “It could have enormous implications in setting cleanup standards and drinking water standards.”

The Hill: Two 'forever chemicals' more toxic than previously thought: EPA drafts 

Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, told The Hill that the stronger toxicity finding is a sign that the agency will issue strong regulations. “There's no turning back. The evidence is now overwhelming, that PFAS is toxic at very low levels and that tens of millions if not hundreds of millions of Americans have unsafe levels of PFOA in particular in their drinking water,” Faber said.

PFAS provisions in the infrastructure bill 

The Regulatory Review (Philadelphia, Penn.): Addressing the Dangers of Forever Chemicals 

A 3M-commissioned study found that 3M was aware of PFAS in food products since as early as 2001. In addition, the Environmental Working Group published a timeline of documented health risks dating back to the 1950s. Despite scientists and organizations calling for federal control of PFAS, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Defense, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) failed to act for decades. 

KXAN-TV (Austin, Texas): Infrastructure bill includes billions to get PFAS out of water 

But the activist Environmental Working Group says the nearly $10 billion for PFAS cleanup is merely a down payment to deal with a problem that it estimates may affect more than 200 million Americans. 

Keep Food Containers Safer from PFAS Act

E&E Daily (Subscription): House, Senate bill would ban PFAS in food packaging

“Food is likely a significant source of exposure to these dangerous chemicals for millions of Americans,” said David Andrews, senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, which announced the bill yesterday.

Cleaning products

Treehugger: The 6 Best Eco-Friendly Stain Sticks of 2021 

The Meliora Soap Stick for Laundry Stain Removal is MADE SAFE certified, so it's been screened for ingredients that are hazardous to people and the ecosystem. It's also received an A rating from the Environmental Working Group and has been certified cruelty-free by the Leaping Bunny Program, which means the manufacturer doesn't use animal testing.   

Treehugger: The 6 Best Natural Teeth Whitening Products of 2021 

With the main bleaching ingredient being hydrogen peroxide, Dr. Haddad says at home whitening strips like these from Crest are safe to use. The Environmental Working Group has rated these seven-ingredient strips with a 2 rating, meaning they pose a low risk of health concerns. 

Skin Deep® cosmetics database

Health Digest: Surprising Uses For Vaseline 

Vaseline is one brand that's proven to be refined to a safe degree, given the highest safety rating by the Environmental Working Group.  

Treehugger: 8 Easy Ways to Use Witch Hazel for Skin 

The Environmental Working Group has identified witch hazel in a handful of commercial hair products, including serums and conditioners. 

EWG VERIFIED™: Cleaners  

Shape: Making these 3 tweaks to your home could help strengthen your immune system 

“Choose cleaning products with an Environmental Working Group-verified label or the [Environmental Protection Agency’s] Safer Choice certification.”

EWG VERIFIED™: Cosmetics  

Earth911: Getting a Greener Clean: Body Wash 

Cleansers of all kinds can contain untested chemicals (or worse, known carcinogens and toxins). The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database provides detailed information about individual products. Verified products are those with the fewest toxicity concerns, like Codex Beauty’s BIA bar and Bravo Sierra. 

Farm subsidies

Mother Jones: After Years of Injustice, Black Farmers Had a Shot at Debt Relief. Then Stephen Miller Stepped In.  

Seldom seen without an enormous cowboy hat, Sid Miller owns a farm that received about $176,128 in USDA crop subsidies and disaster-relief funds between 1995 and 2020, according to the Environmental Working Group farm subsidy database.    

Good Food on a Tight Budget 

BuzzFeed: 10 Tips For Eating Well On A Budget, According To An Awesome Plant-Based Chef 

You can also check out the EWG's Good Food on a Tight Budget to see how you can stretch your dollar with healthier, nutritious eats. There's a food list with foods that are most nutritious and typically the lowest cost, plus recipes. 

Healthy Living: Home Guide  

CNET: 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.  

PFAS

Northwest Military: From burn pits to kitchen sinks: The big problem of toxic exposures 

In a report released in 2020 by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), nearly 700 military installations are either confirmed or suspected of ground water contamination caused by fire-fighting foam (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS) used in vehicle and aircraft mishaps. 

PFAS in food packaging  

WNCT (Greenville, N.C.): Demonstration held in Raleigh asking NC leaders to ban PFAS in food packaging

The Environmental Working Group organization estimates PFAS are contaminating the drinking water of more than 200 million Americans. Environmental activists on the ground say more work needs to be done to educate people.

PFAS monitoring 

StarTribune (Minneapolis, Minn.): Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to ask hundreds of businesses to begin monitoring for PFAS 

It is a vital and critical step for the state to measure and find where sources of PFAS pollution are coming from, said David Andrews, senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, which has been pushing states and the federal government to regulate PFAS. But it is also unclear why it has taken so long to begin monitoring for PFAS, when environmental and health concerns about the substances have been known for years, he said. 

PFAS in water 

EcoWatch: Two Forever Chemicals More Toxic Than Previously Thought 

PFOA and PFOS are two of the most well known and well studied PFAS. PFOA was made by Dupont to make Teflon, while PFOS was used by 3M in Scotchgard, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) explained in a press release emailed to EcoWatch. The EPA pushed for them to be phased out in 2015, however, they persist in the environment, along with other PFAS. 

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

Parents: I'm a Single Foster Mom—Here's How I Budget for Retirement, Meals and More

While she mostly buys conventional produce, she pays attention to the EWG's Dirty Dozen list, and usually buys organic the top 12 fruits and vegetables on that list. "A peach you might want organic, because of the thin skin, but you don't need an organic watermelon," she says. "So, I'm more judicious about that."    

Earth911: Green This, Not That: Simple Swaps for a Healthy Thanksgiving

If your budget is tight, stick with conventionally grown produce that is on the list of the Environmental Working Group’s Clean Fifteen. These produce categories have been found to have the lowest pesticide residue. 

Sunscreen testing report

Practical Dermatology: Recent Developments

Many sunscreens offer just a quarter of their stated SPF protection against ultraviolet A rays, a new Environmental Working Group (EWG) study finds. EWG scientists tested 51 sunscreens with SPF between 15 and 110 to assess their broad-spectrum protection against both types of UV rays. Scientists used UV-absorption testing and compared those results with computer-modeled protection and the SPF values on product labels. 

2021 Tap Water Database update 

Activist Post: 320+ Toxic Substances Detected in U.S. Drinking Water Systems Since 2019; “legal limits were set based on outdated science”

Alarming revelations about the American water supply are nothing new.  In fact, last year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was sued for weakening standards for toxic wastewater from power plants.  A more recent analysis published by the Environmental Working Group provides additional incentives for investing in a home water filtration system (if you haven’t already). 

The Epoch Times: Tap Water Database Lists Toxins by Zip Code

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has updated its database on tap water in the United States, revealing where testing has detected potentially deadly pollutants in the nation’s water systems. 

KOVR (Sacramento, Calif.): CBS13 Investigates: What’s In Your Water

Enter the Environmental Working Group’s Tap Water Database. The advocacy group has compiled a list of known contaminants that have been found in the water in most major water districts. Simply enter your zip code and click on your water company for a list of chemicals of concern, information on each chemical, and the best method to filter each contaminant. If you’d like to go a step farther, you can test your water for the contaminants of concern that are listed by the EWG. 

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