EWG news roundup (10/28): Industry sidesteps EPA’s PFAS reporting requirements, face paint and food chemicals spark Halloween scares and more

This week, EWG analyzed harmful chemicals that are prohibited in personal care products in Europe because of their potential health and environmental harms but that continue to be used in U.S. personal care products.

On Monday, 150 environmental, health and justice organizations, including EWG, submitted a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency pushing for final “hazardous substance” designation of two “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

A new EPA report shows just 44 facilities reported discharges of PFAS, despite the existence of almost 30,000 potential dischargers. This gap between EPA reporting and EWG estimates is due to a Trump EPA loophole, which the current administration announced this week it would close.

“Communities near these dischargers should have known all along what was in their air, land and water. They’ve waited long enough. It’s crucial to understand what chemicals are being released into the environment so the long process of cleaning up the pollution – and holding these polluting dischargers accountable – can begin,” said John Reeder, EWG vice president for federal affairs.

Unilever is the latest company to issue a voluntary recall of aerosol personal care products because of elevated levels of benzene.

“Recalls of products contaminated with benzene a year after production of those products stopped, and after they’ve likely already been used, is no cause for celebration,” said David Andrews, Ph.D., a senior scientist at EWG. “Consumers deserve better.”

With Halloween coming up, EWG broke down some potentially frightful products and treats involving certain face paints and harmful food chemicals.

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

Benzene in personal care products

NBC: Unilever recalls dry shampoos because of potentially high levels of benzene

Other aerosol products have been recalled in the past because of the presence of benzene, according to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. That list includes some Old Spice and Secret deodorant sprays, which were recalled in November, and some Pantene and Herbal Essences hair products recalled in December.

The Washington Post: What you need to know about the dry shampoo recall

Homer Swei, a senior vice president at the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy organization, said the supply chain of the propellants, the butane or propane fuel for the spray cans, must be affected to have these high levels of benzene in each of the aerosol products.

Crop insurance

American Ag Network: EWG: Climate Change Increases Crop Insurance Costs

A new Environmental Working Group analysis found the majority of Midwestern counties with increased precipitation between 2001 and 2020 also had growing crop insurance costs. The report alleges the increased crop insurance costs were due to wetter weather linked to climate change.


Common Dreams: Utility CEOs See Soaring Pay as Families Struggle to Afford Energy Bills

"This goes beyond run-of-the-mill executive greed, and it's a stark example of rewarding failure," Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said of Patricia Poppe's compensation in a statement Friday.

Utility Dive: The energy system is ‘inherently racist,’ advocates say.

How are utilities responding to calls for greater equity? The focus on equity isn’t coming from utilities, said Grant Smith, senior energy policy advisor at Environmental Working Group. ”I don’t see that they’re excessively interested in it. ... It’s advocates [and] state legislators that champion these issues and get support,” he said.

EWG VERIFIED®: Cosmetics

Harper’s Bazaar: The 20 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).

Farm subsidies

The Hill: Sustainability is a key missing ingredient in White House hunger plan

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded about $72 million in grants to support specialty crops, which includes fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and flowers. That same year, through various programs, the department handed out more than $4.2 billion in subsidies for corn, wheat and soy, according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit group.

Investigate Midwest: Secret Subsidies: Program meant to help farmers in trade war overspent, lacked transparency and compliance checks

“I think for a lot of farmers, it really did not make a lot of sense to base the payment rate for the Market Facilitation Program on your county,” said Anne Schechinger, Midwest director and food and agriculture economist at the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization that has criticized the MFP.

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