EWG news roundup (11/5): EWG’s 2021 national drinking water database and more

This week, EWG unveiled the 2021 update of the nationwide Tap Water Database. The one-of-a-kind comprehensive consumer tool uncovers widespread contamination from toxic substances such as arsenic, lead and the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS in the drinking water of tens of millions of households in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“EWG’s Tap Water Database offers a panoramic view of what drinking water quality looks like when the federal office meant to protect our water is in an advanced stage of regulatory capture,” said EWG President Ken Cook.

In this release, EWG highlighted the groundbreaking peer-reviewed research published since the last update, using the data to help communicate to the public about the potential health risks of contaminants in their drinking water, as well as underscoring key gaps in water contamination research.

EWG also took a deep dive into the contaminant nitrate, which affects drinking water supplies at elevated levels for almost 60 million people living in rural communities, major cities and other urban areas throughout the nation. Nitrate has been linked to cancer and is potentially dangerous for infants.

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

2021 Tap Water Database update

E&E News: EPA pressed on 'toxic cocktail' in tap water 

In an update to its Tap Water Database published today, the Environmental Working Group warns, "Millions of Americans are unwittingly drinking water that includes an invisible toxic cocktail made up of contaminants linked to cancer, brain damage and other serious health harms." EPA has power under the Safe Drinking Water Act to help protect the public, EWG said, but the group argued that the agency has fallen short of its mandate to do so. 

The Guardian: Radioactive material and pesticides among new contaminants found in US tap water 

Water utilities and regulators in the US have identified 56 new contaminants in drinking water over the past two years, a list that includes dangerous substances linked to a range of health problems such as cancer, reproductive disruption, liver disease and much more. The revelation is part of an analysis of the nation’s water utilities’ contamination records by the Environmental Working Group, a clean water advocate that has now updated its database for the first time since 2019.

The Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Ill.): New report shows number of contaminants in tap water 

The new list of contaminants is part of an analysis of the country's water utilities' contamination records by the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group that has updated its database for the first time since 2019, according to The Guardian. Reprinted by The Telegraph 

The Hill: Millions consuming 'invisible toxic cocktail' of cancer-linked chemicals: study 

The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2021 Tap Water Database, available to the public as of Wednesday, revealed contamination from toxins like arsenic, lead and “forever chemicals” — perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) — in the drinking water of tens of millions of households across all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C. 

The Hill: 56 new contaminants were just found in America's tap water — including pesticides and radioactive material 

The new contaminants were listed in an analysis by the Environmental Working Group, which advocates for clean water, in its November 2021 update — its first update since it began recording data in 2019. Among the contaminants are a number of PFAS, toxic contaminants known as “forever chemicals,” including pesticides and radioactive materials, which have been linked to health issues, such as reproductive issues and cancer.

The New York Post: Pesticides, radioactivity discovered in US tap water: New analysis 

A new analysis by clean water advocate the Environmental Working Group has discovered 56 new contaminants in US drinking water. The most disturbing of these include pesticides, radioactive materials and water disinfectant byproducts, the Guardian reported. The substances are associated with a long list of side effects, including liver disease, cancer and reproductive problems.

Al Jazeera: Dangerous ‘forever chemicals’ contaminate US tap water: Report 

Fifty-six new contaminants, including pesticides and radioactive materials, have been discovered in US tap water over the past two years, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported on Wednesday. Researchers from the Washington, DC-based non-profit analysed data from nearly 50,000 water systems from across the US to draw their conclusions. 

The Brockovich Report: Want To Know What’s In Your Water? 

We can’t solve all these issues overnight, but we can help spread awareness and give more people tools and information to fight back. The first step is knowing what chemicals have been detected in your tap water. That’s why I’m so excited for Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) newly released update to the Tap Water Database, adding two more years of test results from nearly 50,000 water utilities across all 50 states and cataloging more than 320 contaminants.

WDEL (Wilmington, Del.): Is your tap water safe? EWG database shows 'cocktail of chemicals' in drinking supply 

The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) 2021 Tap Water Database collects mandatory annual test reports from 2014 to 2019, produced by almost 50,000 water utilities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The one-of-a-kind comprehensive consumer tool uncovers widespread contamination from toxic substances such as arsenic, lead and the “forever chemicals” known as PFAS in the drinking water of tens of millions of households. 

WFLA-TV (Tampa, Fla.): Could your water give you cancer? Check by ZIP code 

The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2021 Tap Water Database revealed contamination levels of toxins like arsenic and lead, hundreds of times higher than recommended health guidelines. Tap water tested from the City of Tampa was found to carry 18 total contaminants including arsenic, which was 198 times higher than EWG’s Health Guideline — levels defined by scientists as the amount of a contaminant in drinking water that is not expected to pose any health risks.  

KMSP-TV (St. Paul, Minn.): What’s in your tap water? Search ZIP code to see contaminants 

This new tap water database was put together by the Environmental Working Group. It takes tests that other agencies have performed on public drinking water and puts it together in a comprehensive site that shows what contaminates are found where. According to the tap water database, there are 97 contaminants found in Minnesota tap water. 


USA Today: EPA phased out a toxic pesticide in 2010. Before Trump left office, it was approved for Florida citrus. 

Perception of a close link between the EPA and pesticide distributors "is one of the flaws in pesticide regulation in the U.S.," said Alexis Temkin a toxicologist for the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that has spotlighted harmful agricultural practices. When the EPA sought comment on the aldicarb application, she urged rejection.

Black farmers

The Nation: How Thousands of Black Farmers Were Forced Off Their Land 

A 2004 investigation by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 9 out of 10 Black farmers had been “denied any recovery.” An estimated 64,000 farmers were rejected because they missed the court’s original filing deadline, even though they submitted claims before the court’s “late claims” period. Another 9,000 had their claims refuted and got nothing.

Cleaning products

Dr. Axe: Homemade Dishwasher Detergent with Orange and Lemon Oils 

Did you know that many conventional dishwashing detergents contain some ingredients that are not safe for you and your family? According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and their “guide to healthy cleaning“, these detergents can include phosphates, preservatives, formaldehyde and more. Some of these products “may contain ingredients with potential for acute aquatic toxicity; chronic aquatic toxicity; nervous system effects.”

Skin Deep ® cosmetics database

Buzzfeed: 43 Beauty Products That'll Make You Wanna Replace Everything In Your Medicine Cabinet 

26. A cruelty-free vegan eyeshadow pallet you're gonna go wild for…“These are a perfect way to wear interesting color on your lids in the daytime without looking overdone. Best of all, I put the ingredients list into the EWG, and they are nontoxic as well!" 

Byrdie: Walnut Oil Is the Skincare Powerhouse You Didn't Know You Needed 

According to Zeichner and Hirsch, walnut oil is a safe and effective ingredient that should work for most skin types. In fact, the EWG, or the Environmental Working Group, rates the ingredient as very low-risk.

EPA’s new toxicity assessment for GenX 

Inside EPA: EPA’s GenX Assessment Could Preview Strict New Limits For PFOA, PFOS

“That’s pretty telling,” David Andrews, a senior scientist with Environmental Working Group (EWG), tells Inside TSCA. “It could have enormous implications in setting cleanup standards and drinking water standards.” EPA’s RfDs are commonly used by other programs, agencies and even private authorities to inform risk-management policies.


Earth911: Dish Soap: The Environmental Impact of Washing Dishes 

For times when you need to hand-wash dishes, Earth911 has recommended Honest Company Dish Soap in the past. AspenClean makes the only Environmental Working Group (EWG) Verified liquid dish soap, although several brands, including 9 Elements and Attitude earn an A rating. 

EWG VERIFIED®: Cosmetics

Buzzfeed: 30 Products Reviewers Say Do Wonders For Your Skin While You Sleep 

Follain is a Boston-based, woman-owned small business dedicated to making skincare products that "feel like a treat rather than a chore." Their offerings are EWG-verified, cruelty-free, Leaping Bunny-certified, synthetic fragrance-free, and dermatologist-tested. 


Sage: 5 Moms Tackle Diapering with healthynest 

Eco-minded parents can rejoice! The newest diapers from healthynest have arrived and are everything you’re looking for when keeping your little one clean. The world’s first EWG-verified diaper, you can rest assured that you are making safe choices for both your baby and our planet. 

Food chemicals 

WENY News (Horseheads, N.Y.): Fast food may come with a side of phthalate chemicals 

The two phthalates in question are di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and diisononyl phthalate (DiNP), Zota said. Industries use these chemicals to make plastics flexible, and they can be found in a wide array of food packaging and food-processing machinery. The U.S. Congress has permanently banned the use of DEHP in children's toys, baby bottles and soothers, and it has temporarily banned DiNP for the same uses, according to the Environmental Working Group. The group is a nonprofit that focuses on environmental health issues. 

Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health

The Independent: Is dairy or meat worse for the environment? 

Lamb and beef cause the most greenhouse gas emissions by far, according to a life-cycle analysis carried out by the US non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG), But cheese ranks third, generating 13.5 kilos (29.7 lbs) of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent, a standard unit for measuring carbon footprint) per kilo eaten. It is worse for the environment than the production of pork, salmon, turkey, and chicken. 


Inside EPA: DOD Official Says PFAS Cleanups May Not Accelerate With Funding Boost

DOD faces significant liability for PFAS contamination, and has been criticized by citizen groups, lawmakers and environmentalists over the progress made in cleaning up contamination. For instance, the environmental group Environmental Working Group in May reported little progress in DOD’s cleanup of PFAS sites, saying of 50 Air Force and Navy bases with high levels of PFAS contamination, just nine bases have cleanups plans under Superfund.

Inside EPA: Industries Urge California To Set PFAS Health Goals With Non-Cancer Data

Environmentalists are strongly supporting OEHHA’s proposed PHGs. “These proposed public health goals -- of 1 part per trillion or lower -- are protective of cancer over a lifetime of exposure to drinking water, and they’re much lower than the EPA’s lifetime health advisory limit of 7 ppt,” said Tasha Stoiber, a senior scientist with the Environmental Working Group (EWG), during the workshop.

Earth911: Get Unstuck! 7 Nonstick Cookware Alternatives 

According to the Environmental Working Group, PFCs are associated with smaller birth weight and size in newborn babies, elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation, and weaker immune defense against disease. 

WHYY: Regulating toxic “forever chemicals” 

This hour, what and where are PFAS, the risk they pose and how to regulate them. We’re joined by Carla Ng, a chemical engineer and assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and Scott Faber, with at the Environmental Working Group. 

PFAS in water   

Wellington Daily News (Wellington, Kan.): Where in Kansas were ‘forever chemicals’ used? 

Officials aren't sure — and not everyone tests for them. There are four sites where tests have confirmed PFAS levels above the EPA recommended levels, according to the Environmental Working Group. One of those is in Great Bend, a result that baffled officials in the city's water department when informed of the listing. It is unclear why the 2015 test, whose origins weren't disclosed by the EWG, was elevated in the city. 

KALW (San Francisco): One Planet: The PFAS Contamination Crisis in the US 

PFAS are found in air, fish, soil, water and our blood, and according to the Environmental Working Group, PFAS have now been detected in nearly 2,800 communities, including 2,411 drinking water across the country.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

AltHealthWorks: Superfood Popular Among Surfers Eradicates Cancer Cells While Reducing Blood Sugar and Cholesterol in Overweight Adults 

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries (in that order) are the three most popular types in the U.S., but they’re almost never organic and are often heavily sprayed with chemicals, including strawberries which ranked #1 on the 2018 ‘Dirty Dozen’ list by the Environmental Working Group. 

HealthDigest: What You Should Know About the Clean 15 

In 2004, The Environmental Working Group created the “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.” On the EWG’s website, informed buyers can access a guide to know which items are most pure. Foods with the most residue (found on the EWG’s Dirty Dozen list) are best to buy organic, and those with minimal pesticides are known as the EWG’s Clean Fifteen.    

Solar net metering 

Utility Dive: Stopping the utility profit grab and saving rooftop solar in California 

In fact, Environmental Working Group, 350 Bay Area and the Protect Our Communities Foundation are parties to the California Public Utilities Commission's net metering proceeding and submitted proposals calling on the CPUC to strengthen net metering by making it easier and cheaper for everyone — including lower-income Californians and renters — to benefit directly from rooftop solar.

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