EWG news roundup (10/21): EWG updates report card tracking federal agencies’ PFAS deadlines, chemicals in hair straighteners linked to uterine cancer and more

This week, EWG updated our comprehensive report card tracking whether federal agencies are meeting deadlines for addressing the health and environmental threats of the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

A new study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters identifies at least 57,000 sites potentially contaminated with PFAS. They include places where PFAS-laden firefighting foam was likely released; certain industrial facilities; sites related to PFAS-containing waste; and military sites and airports.

“The true scale of PFAS contamination in the U.S. is likely dramatically underreported,” said David Andrews, Ph.D., a senior scientist at EWG. “As PFAS are found to be harmful at lower and lower levels, it is critical to identify sources of potential contamination and take steps to protect downstream communities who may be unwittingly exposed.” 

October marks the Environmental Protection Agency’s national Children’s Health Month, and the agency released a set of tips for shielding kids from potential health harms caused by lead contamination, pesticides on produce and sun exposure.

A survey of 1,200 registered voters, by the University of California, San Francisco’s Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment, found that almost all Americans believe the federal government has a duty to ensure the safety of chemicals used in consumer products. Even more say companies don’t do enough to keep toxic substances out of products. 

“A mix of lax regulatory oversight by the federal government and deceptive and dangerous decisions by chemical companies has left every American polluted with toxic substances associated with many serious health problems,” said Melanie Benesh, EWG vice president of government affairs.

An independent investigation into Pacific Gas & Electric’s role in recent California wildfires pointed fingers at its aging and unmaintained infrastructure.

Finally, a new study by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences researchers found women who often use chemical hair straighteners may be twice as likely to develop uterine cancer as those who never touch the treatments.

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

Children’s health

Consumer Reports: Halloween Face Paint Can Be Toxic to Kids

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group sent talc-based makeup to be tested for asbestos in 2020 and found the carcinogen in two eyeshadow palettes and one toy makeup kit for kids. The FDA had previously found asbestos in two brands of kids’ powdered makeup as well—sold by Claire’s and Justice retailers.

Crop insurance

FERN: Report: Wetter Midwest led to higher crop insurance payouts, not more cover crops

Rain, snow and sleet increased in almost all midwestern counties between 2001 and 2020. Along with that additional precipitation came increased federal crop insurance payments to farmers whose crops failed due to “excess moisture,” said a report Wednesday by the Environmental Working Group.

WHO draft report on PFOA and PFOS

Bloomberg Law: Global PFAS Guidance Fuels Debate as EPA Tap Water Limits Loom

“The chemical industry will use WHO’s guidance to sow seeds of doubt” and undermine the EPA’s science, said Melanie Benesh, an attorney and vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. 

Inside PFAS Policy: WHO’s Draft PFAS Values Bolster Industry Challenge To EPA Advisories

ACC’s initial view of WHO’s analysis contrasts with those in the environmental community, where the Environmental Working Group (EWG) is joining others in heavily criticizing the draft WHO guidelines. In a statement, EWG, a longtime proponent of strict PFAS regulations, is blasting WHO’s analysis and is calling for a united front among public health advocates to point out the guidelines’ flaws in order to ensure health protection from PFAS remains a top priority.


Utility Dive: Duke Energy proposes green tariff for South Carolina customers seeking 24/7 renewables

“Like with any clean energy claims Duke makes, this one should also be viewed with a healthy dose of suspicion by South Carolina ratepayers,” said Alex Formuzis, a spokesperson for the Environmental Working Group. “It’s short on specifics and will financially benefit commercial-and-utility scale solar projects, including Duke’s, over residential customers.”

EWG VERIFIED®: Cosmetics

Vogue: Michelle Pfeiffer and Stella McCartney on Making Luxury Beauty Less Toxic and More Sustainable

Pfeiffer, who successfully set out to make Henry Rose the first fine fragrance line to earn the Environmental Working Group (EWG-verified) mark, shares the same perspective. They’re each focused on building their brands mindfully with purpose and integrity.

PFAS in drinking water

The Hill: Lack of ‘forever chemicals’ testing could be leaving most victims in the dark

David Andrews, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, which does research and advocacy on PFAS, said that people who drink water from wells, as well as those who live in smaller communities, are more likely to be vulnerable, as their water is likely to come under less scrutiny. 

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