EWG news roundup (12/3): The risks with green tea extract, meat’s math problem, healthier face masks and more

Last week, EWG published an analysis of epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG, an extract of green tea that’s both added to food and used as a supplement. Though credited with several health benefits, it may be harmful as a food additive. Despite these concerns, the Food and Drug Administration has failed to review the safety data on EGCG-based food additives.

In the midst of holiday season, EWG described how to assemble a healthier charcuterie board while avoiding harmful food chemicals like nitrates, TBHQ and potassium bromate.

In response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s revelation that the forever chemicals” known as PFAS are more toxic than previously thought, EWG urged Congress to move forward with a ban on PFAS in cosmetics.

On Tuesday, EWG also explained how meat is exacerbating the climate crisis. U.S. agriculture already accounts for 10 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions. When emissions from producing fertilizer to grow animal feed are factored in, that number increases.

And finally, as we’re in the gift-giving season, EWG provided useful tips on finding healthier versions of skin care face masks.

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

Children’s health 

Babygaga: Why It's Harmful To Let Toddlers Play With Makeup 

Cleveland Clinic explains that even if a product markets itself as organic or natural, it still may contain dangerous chemicals as safety standards are not always steadily enforced if they even exist, to begin with. The outlet recommends reviewing the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database, which provides a safety rating for various makeup and beauty products. 

Bipartisan Infrastructure Act     

Center for Health Journalism: The new infrastructure bill makes historic investments in water cleanup 

The Environmental Working Group has an interactive map on PFAS contamination. Other PFAS data sources include the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the PFAS-Tox Database, and the Green Science Policy Institute’s PFAS Data Hub. CalMatters did an exposé about the extent of California’s PFAS problem.

WITI (Milwaukee): $50B investment will address contaminants in US drinking water, EPA announces 

The Environmental Working Group released its 2021 "State of American Drinking Water" in November. "For too many Americans, turning on their faucets for a glass of water is like pouring a cocktail of chemicals," the group said in its report. "Lead, arsenic, the ‘forever chemicals’ known as PFAS and many other substances are often found in drinking water at potentially unsafe levels, particularly in low-income and underserved communities."

Build Back Better bill – funding for agriculture

AgUpdate: Build Back Better good for ag 

Scott Faber, SVP of the Environmental Working Group, said, “The budget-reconciliation bill provides a once-in-a-generation chance to make better farmland stewardship, not unlimited subsidies, our top priority. Farmland-conservation practices that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and store carbon also have the added benefit of reducing the amount of farm pollution that is fouling our drinking water.” 

Charleston Gazette-Mail: Build Back Better bill conservation funding touted as antidote to Chesapeake Bay watershed pollution, farming challenges 

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit activist organization, has applauded the Build Back Better bill’s $27 billion investment in conservation efforts. “The Build Back Better Act provides a once-in-a-generation chance to make better farmland stewardship -- not unlimited subsidies -- our top priority,” Scott Faber, the Environmental Working Group’s senior vice president for government affairs, said in a statement following the bill’s passage last month in the House.  

Build Back Better bill – funding for PFAS

Framingham Source (Framingham, Mass.): House Passes $1.75 Trillion ‘Build Back Better’ Bill To Protect Firefighters From ‘Forever’ Chemicals 

“Firefighters are among those most highly exposed to harms from PFAS through their protective gear and firefighting foam, but many local fire departments lack the resources to switch to PFAS-free alternatives,” said Scott Faber, Environmental Working Group’s senior vice president for government affairs. 

WSNV (Miami, Fla.): Firefighters praise passage of ‘Build Back Better’ bill that includes $95M for safe gear 

On Friday, the House of Representatives passed the “Build Back Better” bill, which includes $95 million to purchase PFAS-free turnout gear and foam. “This is a really big deal. As you probably know, firefighters are exposed to the toxic forever chemicals PFAS much more than the rest of us,” said Scott Faber with the Environmental Working Group. 

EPA assessment of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water  

MLive (Mich.): No safe PFAS exposure level? EPA toxicity drafts point that way 

David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit which has been lobbying for stronger PFAS regulation, said the reference doses used in the new EPA analyses translate to “safe” exposure levels far below 1-ppt. 

WebMD: Safer Drinking Water Is Coming 

“This is a very significant change in the assessment of PFOS and PFOA [by the EPA],” says Andrews of the Environmental Working Group. “In the documents, the EPA for the first time relied on studies about PFAS impact on human health” rather than animal studies. “As a result, the agency has changed its position on safe levels of exposure.”


Avocado: 7 Easy Ways to Create a Non-Toxic Kitchen  

PFAS are often used to coat plastic takeout containers, while BPA is used to line food cans — and exposure to both of these chemicals has been shown to cause serious health concerns like cancer, according to the Environmental Working Group. 


The Charlotte Post: ‘Dirty industries’ a strain on unsuspecting NC neighbors, Polluters continue march into brownest communities 

An Environmental Working Group and Waterkeepers Alliance investigation found that in the last year alone, North Carolina added nearly 1,000 poultry factory farms with virtually no oversight. According to EWG, since 2012, the estimated number of chickens and turkeys in Robeson County has increased by about 24 million.  


General Health: 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. 

Cosmetics – Skin Deep® 

CNN: Body spray recall: What the finding of a cancer-causing chemical means for you 

"Impurities may be present in the manufacturing environment due to the use of certain chemicals, equipment or containers. We need more testing," said David Andrews, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit environmental and consumer health advocacy group.

Byrdie: Xanthan Gum for Hair: Benefits and How to Use It 

It is FDA approved and the Environmental Working Group gave xanthan gum its best ranking of 1, meaning it is not toxic or harmful. 

Treehugger: The Environmental Impact of Cosmetics Is Tremendous—Here's How They're Harmful 

The Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database identifies 1,562 cosmetics and personal care products that contain octinoxate and 615 that contain oxybenzone—these are some of the most environmentally destructive UV filters on the market. 

WBOC (Delmarva, Md.): Oncoderm Labs Releases Skincare Products Aimed Towards Cancer Patients 

Oncoderm Labs uses only ingredients that meet the strict health and safety standards of the Environmental Working Group. The organization specializes in the research of the risk and safety of various chemical compounds, with the clinic’s skincare products being paraben-free, fragrance-free, formaldehyde-free, FDA-approved, and proven to enhance the quality of life of cancer patients. 

Endocrine disruptors 

Byrdie: 18 Ingredients a Clean Cosmetic Chemist Would Avoid

The EWG reports that some retailers have started to ban phtalate-containing products from their shelves, but we still recommend a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to added fragrance.

EWG’s Healthy Living App 

The Skinny Confidential: Check Your Boobs & Give Back this Holiday Season 

Check out the Non Toxic Revolution Shop for toxin-free alternatives for your favorite products and download Environmental Working Group’s Healthy Living App to scan products in store so you can shop smart and non-toxic! 

EWG VERIFIED™: Cosmetics 

Harper’s BAZAAR: The 19 Best Perfumes of All Time 

A gorgeous combination of honeyed neroli, peony, jasmine, and musk, this top seller from Michelle Pfeiffer’s fragrance line smells both crisp and clean, and is made with clean ingredients; in fact, it’s the only fine fragrance line to be verified by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). 

Amazon: Shop more sustainably this holiday with Climate Pledge Friendly 

Everyone Lavender Hand Sanitizer Spray…Perfect for the car or at home, this spray is certified as EWG Verified. Products with this certification are reviewed to ensure they are free from EWG’s known chemicals of concern and adhere to strict health standards. 

Lead in water  

HuffPost and Planet Detroit (Co-Published): Michigan’s rules for testing lead in drinking water may give ‘false sense of confidence’ in water quality 

In a city like Detroit with a high number of lead pipes, the state’s methodology “isn’t going to capture what’s really happening in the water system,” said Susan Little, a health advocate with the Environmental Working Group, a national clean water advocacy group.

Meat Eater’s Guide 

CNBC: 7 ways college students can help save the environment — and not go broke 

And in terms of the environmental impact: Preparing meat produces between 10 and 40 times more greenhouse gas emissions than growing and harvesting vegetables and grains, according to the Environmental Working Group. 

HealthDay: Your Plant-Based Diet Could Really Help the Planet 

Tea, coffee and chocolate are linked to deforestation, which reduces the planet's ability to process excess atmospheric carbon, said Bergen and Geoff Horsfield, government affairs manager for the Environmental Working Group. 

Green America: Go Vegan for the Planet...and Animals, and People 

Going vegan can reduce the effects of the climate crisis—factory farms account for 37% of methane emissions—and veganism can also reduce the impact of pollution on marginalized communities. Environmental Working Group’s 2020 “Fields of Filth” report demonstrates that communities of color are still the most affected by pollution from factory farms—and farmworkers are exposed to diseases and pesticides at disproportionately high rates. 

Powdersville Post (S.C.): The Planet Could Be Aided By A Plant-Based Diet 

Darren Greenwood said that in order to save the planet, we all want to do our bit. He said that one way of doing this is by modifying our diet…He is the government affairs manager for the Environmental Working Group.  

PFAS and firefighters  

The Herald News (Fall River, Mass.): 'We're dying in that stuff': Firefighter says toxic chemicals in his gear may cause cancer 

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group has studies showing at least some level of PFAS is present in the water supply of most Americans, including in Fall River. The touchscreen on your phone or tablet that you may be using to read this story is made with PFAS. 

Environment News Service: Burning Toxic Firefighting Foam Hazardous to Human Health 

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group, which has been working on PFAS issues, says, “The number of U.S. communities confirmed to be contaminated with the highly toxic fluorinated compounds known as PFAS continues to grow at an alarming rate. As of August 2021, 2,854 locations in 50 states and two territories are known to be contaminated.” 

PFAS in water  

Wisconsin State Journal: DNR finalizing rules limiting some PFAS in drinking, surface waters 

The Environmental Protection Agency has said it’s safe to drink water with PFOS and PFOA concentrations up to 70 parts per trillion (ppt), though recently released draft documents show negative health effects can occur at much lower levels. Some independent organizations, such as the Environmental Working Group, argue the limit should be just 1 ppt.

Indiana Environmental Reporter: Preliminary State PFAS Testing Detects Toxic “Forever Chemicals” in Some Indiana Community Water Systems 

The Environmental Working Group in 2020 compiled a list of suspected PFAS users, finding 14 Indianapolis facilities suspected of using PFAS, including chemical, metal and cosmetics manufacturers. 

WJAC (Johnstown, Pa.): 'Forever chemicals' found in local waters as state and feds seek to limit exposure

“One thing that’s consistent across all these chemicals is they do not break apart in the environment,” said David Andrews, Senior Scientist for Environmental Working Group.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ 

How To Clean Stuff: How to Wash Strawberries 

Regarding conventionally-grown strawberries, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG); “Non-organic strawberries tested by scientists at the Department of Agriculture in 2015 and 2016 contained an average of 7.8 different pesticides per sample, compared to 2.2 pesticides per sample for all other produce, according to EWG’s analysis.” 

Olive Oil Times: Even a Non-Organic Mediterranean Diet Better Than Western, Oldways Says 

Baer-Sinnott and Toups also emphasized how “many popular Mediterranean ingredients, such as onions, eggplant, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and cantaloupe, have such low levels of pesticide residues that experts at the Environmental Working Group noted that buying organic versions of these ingredients won’t make much of a difference in terms of pesticide exposure.” 

Guide to Sunscreens 

Treehugger: Sunscreen Pollution Threatens Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay 

According to concerned consumers at the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that rates sunscreen safety based on published scientific literature, oxybenzone is readily absorbed by the body, lingers for weeks on the skin and in the blood, and may disrupt hormone production. 

Sustainable packaging

Earth911: Time for Restaurants to Shift to Sustainable Takeout Packaging 

On the restaurant side, there was no central and credible information source to advise on truly sustainable materials, equivalent to what you find on a consumer products site that provides product environmental impact information, like Patagonia and EWG.org.

2021 Tap Water Database update  

Yahoo!: 39 Supermarket Buys That Are a Waste of Money 

Unless you live in an area where tap water is not safe (you can look these details up on EWG's Tap Water Database), buying bottled water is nothing but a waste of money and plastic.  

The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.): Some Coloradans' drinking water still worst in the U.S. — and it's a health risk 

According to the Environmental Working Group’s new drinking water contamination data compilation, the worst radium content in the nation is found in Rocky Ford, where there was an average of 23 picocuries of radium per liter of water. 

Nation of Change: Millions of Americans struggle to pay their water bills—here’s how a national water aid program could work 

The EWG's Tap Water Database lets U.S. residents see what's in their water. 

Palm Coast Observer: How do we know for sure that our water is safe? 

I was led to the website of EWG (Environmental Working Group) to find the data on water in this area. The most striking fact was that we had/have hexavalent chromium in our water, the same toxin Erin Brockovich discovered in PG&E's Hinkley water system's groundwater, which was responsible for many cancer deaths in that area in California. 

Sonoma Index Tribune (Sonoma, Calif.): Letters to the Index-Tribune editor, Nov. 30, 2021  

This is a personal concern and opinion, but legal federal limits do not necessarily mean healthy limits. Easy research is available at Environmental Working Group of Washington DC (EWG.org). The City of Sonoma apparently sends out our water quality data once a year. 

KALW (San Francisco): One Planet: How safe is our drinking water?  

On this edition of Your Call’s One Planet Series, we discuss the quality of drinking water in the United States. According to the Environmental Working Group, since 2019, more than 320 toxic substances have been detected in US drinking water systems. 

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