EWG news roundup (6/11): What FDA should do to address toxic chemicals in food, PFAS in Great Lake region rainwater and more

This week, the Food and Drug Administration announced a voluntary recall of Beech-Nut Stage 1 Single Grain Rice Cereal, because of harmful levels of arsenic found in samples taken by the state of Alaska. The samples contained inorganic arsenic levels above 100 parts per billion, which exceeds the FDA’s infant rice cereal guidance level.

EWG laid out several questions about toxic chemicals in food for FDA Acting Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock to address when she appeared before the Senate spending committee on Thursday.

A federal appeals court reversed a last-minute Trump Environmental Protection Agency decision to allow the highly toxic pesticide aldicarb on oranges and grapefruit in Florida. Aldicarb is banned in 125 countries and is classified as “extremely hazardous” by the World Health Organization, yet the EPA still approves its use in certain circumstances.

“We hope the EPA now follows the science and not the demands of the pesticide industry, and permanently bans the use of aldicarb on Florida’s citrus crops,” said EWG Toxicologist Alexis Temkin, Ph.D. “Aldicarb is a potent neurotoxic pesticide that is a dangerous threat for young children who are exposed when eating oranges or enjoying orange juice for breakfast.”

EWG applauded Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) for introducing legislation this week that would set deadlines for cleanup and provide funding for Defense Department facilities contaminated with the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

A recent monitoring study by the EPA and Canada found alarming levels of PFAS in rainwater across the Great Lakes region. Phased-out PFAS and their so-called short-chain replacements were detected in all the samples.

“We test water samples for PFAS, and what our research continues to show is the more we look for PFAS, the more we find them,” said Sydney Evans, EWG science analyst.

On Thursday, the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention announced three actions the agency would be taking to protect folks from PFAS.

“EWG applauds the actions taken today by the EPA chemicals office to quickly collect critical industry data on PFAS chemical uses and health risks; regulate more imported products containing PFAS; and require more TRI reporting,” said Melanie Benesh, EWG’s legislative attorney.

“Proposing the data collection rule well ahead of statutory deadlines demonstrates the chemicals office is giving PFAS the urgency they deserve. The information collected under this rule will bring much-needed transparency to PFAS use and production and risks to workers and nearby communities,” Benesh said.

And finally, EWG broke down how the “all of the above” energy policy isn’t an affordable prospect in America.

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

Children’s health

Men Who Blog: What Dads Need To Know About Sunscreen And Summer Skincare For Kids

Ensulizole: According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), ensulizole may cause excess reactive oxygen. This may lead to cellular changes and interruptions in cellular signaling.

AB 652: PFAS in juvenile products

Inside EPA: California Assembly OKs Bills Banning ‘Juvenile,’ Other Products With PFAS (subscription)

AB 652 is sponsored by the Environmental Working Group and is supported by a variety of organizations, including nurses’ associations, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, California Municipal Utilities Association, California Water Association, CALPIRG, Clean Water Action, Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts, and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

FDA recall of Beech-Nut baby cereal

WBUR (Boston NPR): Why Rice Contains Arsenic After Baby Food Company Recalls Cereal

Here & Now's Robin Young talks with Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, about why there's arsenic in rice.

Filthy Fifty Act

Inside EPA: Senate Democrats Push New Bills To Speed, Fund DOD PFAS Cleanups

The environmental group Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has long pushed for PFAS regulation and cleanup, is applauding the legislation, noting that bill’s naming of 50 priority sites for expedited cleanup includes 12 with levels of PFAS exceeding one million parts per trillion (ppt) in groundwater.

MLive (Mich.): Two Michigan air bases on “Filthy Fifty” Senate PFAS priority list

The bills were announced with the support of advocacy groups like the Environmental Working Group, League of Conservation Voters, Earthjustice and others.

Hey SoCal (Cali.): Proposed law targets Edwards Air Force Base water contamination

“Although the Defense Department has known that toxic PFAS have been building up in the blood of service members and residents of defense communities for decades, the PFAS plumes flowing from these facilities have not been cleaned up,” said Scott Faber, the Environmental Working Group’s senior vice president for government affairs.

EPA action on PFAS

Inside EPA: EPA Withdraws PFAS SNUR Guide, Advances New Reporting Mandate

“Proposing the data collection rule well ahead of statutory deadlines demonstrates the chemicals office is giving PFAS the urgency they deserve. The information collected under this rule will bring much-needed transparency to PFAS use and production and risks to workers and nearby communities,” Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group, said in a June 10 statement from that organization

Ban on PFAS in food packaging

The Hill: Health advocates ask the FDA to ban PFAS from food packaging

The other organizations listed are the following: Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, Defend Our Health, Environmental Working Group, Green Science Policy Institute, and League of Conservation Voters. The petition requests that the FDA ban the use of PFAS in food packaging unless there is evidence that a specific use is safe. The government has 180 days to respond to the petition.

PFAS in rain water

Inside EPA: Extensive PFAS Precipitation Levels Renew Call For Broad Federal Response

“These toxic chemicals are so ubiquitous that it’s now literally raining PFAS,” Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), said in a June 8 statement citing the analysis.

Toxic Free Food Act

The Fence Post: CFS endorses DeLauro’s Toxic Free Food Act

“None of us should have to worry about the safety of our food,” said Environmental Working Group Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Faber. “But, for too long, the FDA has let the food and chemical companies decide whether toxic-forever chemicals like PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) are safe to eat. The Toxic Free Food Act will put the FDA in charge of food safety, not the food and chemical companies.”

Aldicarb ban

CBS Miami: Court Blocks Controversial Pesticide

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in January approved the use of aldicarb in the production of Florida oranges and grapefruit. That drew a court challenge from the Center for Biological Diversity, the Environmental Working Group and the Farmworker Association of Florida, which argue, in part, that the pesticide threatens the health of workers and wildlife.

E&E News: Court nixes pesticide use on Fla. Citrus (subscription)

In addition to the center, the Farmworker Association of Florida and the Environmental Working Group were involved in the D.C. Circuit challenge.

Asbestos

E&E News: Landmark deal forces EPA to require asbestos reporting (subscription)

ADAO sued EPA over the agency's 2018 decision not to include asbestos in its chemical reporting process. Co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the American Public Health Association; the Center for Environmental Health; the Environmental Health Strategy Center; the Environmental Working Group; and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families.

Black farmers

Missouri Independent: Vicky Hartzler makes it official, joining 2022 Missouri GOP Senate primary

“We found that rather than supporting small, struggling farmers, MFP money has overwhelmingly gone to farmers who are already wealthy, as well as to people who live in cities and other places far from the fields,” the Environmental Working Group stated on its webpage about the program.

Successful Farming: Bills Would Disclose Race, Gender of Farm Subsidy Recipients

The Environmental Working Group, which runs a database of farm subsidy payments, said that without the information sought in the Booker and Rush bills, “Congress cannot be sure that long overdue reforms are working.”

Yahoo: Exclusive: New farm legislation would overhaul how the U.S. tracks and reports subsidies

In 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, the USDA established the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to provide billions of dollars in relief to farmers heavily impacted. A report by the Environmental Working Group found that as of October 2020, nearly 97% of the $9.2 billion in CFAP aid that had been distributed went to white farmers, who received on average eight times more in aid ($3,398) than the average Black farmer ($422).

Cleaning products

Herald Net (Everett, Wash.): Three healthy ways to detox that don’t involve a juice cleanse

Next time your chemical laden bathroom cleaner runs out, see if you can get a healthier form or make your own. Explore the Environmental Working Group and Skin Deep’s websites to learn about the chemicals inside common household and cosmetic products.

Easy Health Options: Popular Bleach Alternatives Not So Safe to Disinfect Your Home

When asked how to disinfect and cleanse your home with less risk, the team had these suggestions. You can also check out the Environmental Working Group’s recommendations on greener cleaners here.

Skin Deep® cosmetics database

Romper: The Best Pampering Self-Care Products For Pregnancy

When thinking about topical beauty products, you can better understand how the FDA is involved in cosmetics safety, and the recommendations they do and don’t provide. If you’re interested, you can check out websites like The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the non-profit organization’s data on chemicals and ingredients found in products.

The Everett Herald (Everett, Wash.): Three healthy ways to detox that don’t involve a juice cleanse

Next time your chemical laden bathroom cleaner runs out, see if you can get a healthier form or make your own. Explore the Environmental Working Group and Skin Deep’s websites to learn about the chemicals inside common household and cosmetic products. Work to switch these products out. Consider used or environmentally conscious furnishings, paints, clothes and other home products so you bring fewer chemicals into the house.

Endocrine disruptors

Mane Addicts: These Toxic Hair Ingredients Might Be Messing With Your Hormones

According to the Environmental Working Group, EDCs have been shown to mimic estrogen, mess with periods and fertility, infiltrate breast milk, cause thyroid irregularities and tumor growth, lower sperm count, and, uh, shrink testicles. Yup. You read that right.

EWG VERIFIED™: Cosmetics

Refinery29: 14 Vegan Beauty Brands To Transform Your Daily Routine For The Better

Champion of biotechnology Biossance is accredited cruelty-free and vegan by PETA and much of its range bears the EWG VERIFIED™ mark, meaning that it meets the Environmental Working Group's strictest criteria for transparency and health.

W Magazine: 8 Latinx Beauty Brands You Need to Know (and Shop) Now

With its EWG clean stamp of approval, Elaluz (which translates to “she is light” in Portugese) is certifiably legit. The brainchild of the Brazilian mega-influencer Camila Coelho, its non-toxic makeup, hair and body formulas are free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates and 1,600 of the other known impurities banned by the E.U.

Treehugger: The 8 Best Sustainable Makeup Brands, According to a Makeup Artist

There’s clean beauty and then there’s super clean beauty. W3LL People considers itself to be super clean with its EWG certification, meaning that more than 35 of its products are certified by the Environmental Working Group for meeting non-toxic standards.

EWG VERIFIED™: Diapers

MomTrends: How to pick the safest diapers for your baby

Let's talk about what's inside this diaper: every part of the healthynest diaper that touches your baby is plant based. In fact, they are the only diaper in the world that's verified by the Environmental Working Group.

Farm conservation

Illinois Newsroom: For Farmland Conservation, It Comes Down To Who Owns It

“The sense we get is that it’s more of a business decision,” says Soren Rundquist, director of spatial analysis for the Environmental Working Group. “(Landlords are) trying to make the most out of (their) investment in terms of renting land and planting (their) cash crop, versus incorporating a best-management practice.”

Food Scores

Eat This, Not That!: One Major Side Effect of Eating Too Much Cereal, Says Science

In 2014 the Environmental Working Group (EWG) published the findings of a study in which researchers analyzed the sugar content of 84 popular cereal brands and found that 44 cereals contained more sugar per serving than the 11 grams you get from three Chips Ahoy! Cookies.

Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health

Bright Vibes: Burger King Opens Its First Meat-Free Restaurant in Germany

Additionally, they led 0.13 pounds of methane and 4 pounds of carbon dioxide to be released into the environment. The Environmental Working Group estimated that the carbon footprint of broccoli is nearly 13 times less than beef, and a clinical trial showed that eating it may even help to rid your body of cancer-associated pollutants.

PFAS

FireRescue1: ‘Forever chemicals’: What firefighters need to know about AFFF and PFAS

We are all exposed to PFAS, and it can be found in the blood of virtually every American. According to the Environment Working Group (EWG), the presence of PFAS in our food, water, and consumer products has been linked to health hazards, including cancer, reproductive and developmental harms and reduced the effectiveness of vaccines.

Pennsylvania Capital Star: Suburban Philly activist, local leaders urge Congress to move faster on regulating PFAS

The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit organization that specializes in research and advocacy work around agriculture, pollutants and corporate accountability, has found high levels of PFOA and PFOS in Brunswick County, North Carolina, with levels at 185.9 parts per trillion. One part per trillion is comparable to a drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

PFAS in water

Natural Resource Defense Council: The Drinking Water Crisis That North Carolina Ignored

Just west of Wilmington’s Hanover County sits Brunswick County, which a 2019 Environmental Working Group study found to have by far the highest PFAS levels in its tap water out of the 44 places it analyzed across the country.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

CNN: The pandemic changed the way we ate and shopped -- not always for the better

Strawberries topped the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list in 2021 for the sixth year in a row. The most recent report states they are the fresh produce most likely to remain contaminated by pesticide residues, even after being washed.

Bustle: 10 Things Doctors Want You To Keep Out Of Your Vagina

Many fruits and veggies still carry some kind of pesticide on them, according to the Environmental Working Group’s 2020 analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But no matter how many times you've scrubbed that organic cucumber, it probably still carries some bacteria.

Cheapism: When Is It Worth Buying Organic?

The Environmental Working Group lists a "Dirty Dozen" of fruits and vegetables for which organic really matters in terms of pesticide exposure. Apples are usually named as the No. 1 food to buy organic, followed by peaches, nectarines, strawberries, grapes, celery, spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, imported snap peas, and potatoes.

Idea Fitness Journal: The Dirty Dozen Fruits and Vegetables

For the sixth year in a row, strawberries lead the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen™ report of fruits and veggies that contain the highest levels of leftover pesticides from crop spraying. Number two on the dirty-dozen list is spinach, followed by kale, collard and mustard; nectarines; apples; grapes; cherries; peaches; pears; bell and hot peppers; celery; and tomatoes.

Live Trading News: Grow Organic Strawberries at Home

You do not want to buy inorganic strawberries as nearly 60 different pesticides have been found on them. They are always one of the top EWG’s Dirty Dozen Foods the fungus prompts farmers to spray, and pesticide residue remains on berries sold even at farmers markets. They are the most chemically intensive crop in California.

Thyroid Pharmacist: How to Eat for Thyroid Health on a Budget

If, however, you have a strict budget, I recommend taking a look at the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list. This list is updated every year to include the top 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables to avoid, as well as the top 12 foods that have the least contamination and can be purchased from conventional sources.

EWG Guide to Sunscreens

Better Nutrition: Supercharged Mineral Sunscreens

Plus, you might not even be getting all the UV protection you were promised by a chemical sunscreen. A 2019 report from the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that 67 percent of the sunscreens reviewed failed to offer enough protection against ultraviolet rays or contained harmful chemicals that are absorbed by the body.

Free News Today: 8 sunscreens dermatologists and skincare pros say you should try

NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman tells her patients to look for a high percentage of zinc oxide. (The Environmental Working Group, which annually rates the efficacy and safety of sunscreens, recommends mineral-based sunscreens like those with zinc oxide.) “Paula’s Choice has 13% zinc and it also has antioxidants like resveratrol and quercetin, which fight free radical damage,” says Jaliman.

The People’s Pharmacy: Should You Worry About Benzene in Some Sunscreens?

EWG recommends that consumers avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone. To do so, however, you will need to read the fine print on the label very carefully.

Tap Water Database

Hometown Focus: Understand water’s hidden dangers to better your health

If you want to know what toxins are in your city water The Environmental Working Group has a great feature on their website called the tap water database. Just type in the zip code of the city you live in and find out what toxins have been found in the water.

Wetzel Chronicle (New Martinsville, W.V.): Americans Deserve Access To Better Drinking Water

There are a concerning amount of water treatment facilities that pass federal standards but violate the EWG health guidelines. It’s important to take into consideration that the EWG holds a higher standard for drinking water, but they reported that federal tap water guidelines have not been updated in almost 20 years.

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